“Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind…” While this quote from A Midsummer Night’s Dream may apply to the play’s characters, the Arts Collective at Howard Community College’s production of this Shakespearean classic is a treat to both the eyes and the mind, and I certainly walked out of the theatre exclaiming, “I loved it!”
Expertly directed by Grace Anastasiadis, A Midsummer Night’s Dream tells the stories of four couples, some of whom are already in love and some who have not realized that they should be in love. As the Duke of Athens Theseus (Keilyn Durrel Jones) and his beloved Hippolyta (Jillianne Grabau) prepare for their upcoming wedding, they are approached by a distraught Hermia (Rachael Sinnott), who wishes to marry her true love Lysander (Chris Sisson) and not her mother’s choice Demetrius (John Sisson). Hermia’s good friend Helena (Katie Tyler) would gladly take Demetrius off of Hermia’s hands, but he will have nothing to do with Helena. Lysander, Demetrius, Hermia and Helena find themselves in the woods just at the same time as the Fairy King Oberon (also played by Jones) is feuding with his wife Titania (Grabau). Since Oberon has already assigned his servant Puck (Matt Winer) to use a love potion to play a trick on Titania, he suggests that Puck also use some of the potion to bring happiness to the unhappy Athenian couples. But, as with every Shakespeare play, things do not go as swimmingly as Oberon has planned.
Jones and Grabau are beautifully regal as the royal couples of both Athens and the Fairy Realm. There is a clear chemistry between the two that is apparent with every look and movement. Sinnott encaptures the dreamy Hermia, but what is even more impressive is her feisty side that comes out during an argument with Helena later in the show, as Hermia hurls herself at her enemy and must be held back by Demetrius and Lysander. In their roles as Demetrius and Lysander, John Sisson and Chris Sisson do well with their lines and blocking, but they lack the passion needed for such gallant noblemen. As the Rude Mechanicals, a traveling theatre troupe, Thomas Matera, Ashanti Cooper, Brendan O’Donnell, Melissa Paper, Jessica Welch and Keri Eastridge bring many laughs from the audience, and their performance at Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding is truly a ‘comedy of errors.’
The two actors that steal the show are Katie Tyler and Matt Winer. Tyler’s fiery Helena literally throws herself at Demetrius (even to the point of clinging to his back and leg), and she perfectly delivers every comical line. Winer’s Puck is truly the “shrewd and knavish sprite” who lithely hops from toe to toe as he sprinkles love potion in the eyes of Titania and the Athenians. His facial expressions let the audience know that his character is constantly up to something mischievous, and his laugh is of one that is truly mad.
When walking into the theatre, I gasped at the beauty of the set and lighting. Set Designer Ryan Haase and Lighting Designer Terry Cobb’s teamwork allows a set composed of a simple rotating centerpiece to be easily transformed from the palace in Athens to the Realm of the Fairies. When in Athens, Cobb’s lights creating the outline of buildings and fences in shadows on the back wall, but the shadows turn to those of tree branches when the characters enter the forest. Columns on either side of the stage are appropriate for Athens but double as trees in the forest. One of the most enchanting parts of the set is the strands of crystal beads that hang from above, showing both the elegance of Athens and the whimsy of the Fairy Realm. Erin Drum’s sound also helps to create the scene with the addition of tinkling music and insect sound effects whenever the characters enter the forest.
Designed by Nicole McClam and Jessica Welch, the costumes are perfectly suited to the settings, both in color and style. Most of Athenians wear white robes and togas trimmed with delicate embroidery. In the forest, the fairies are indeed magical in their pink, blue and green costumes, each one created with a gauzy or satin sparkly fabric.
Puck declares, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” Do not be a foolish mortal – get thee to Howard Community College and see this show!
Running time: 90 minutes with no intermission.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays through August 14th in the Smith Theatre in The Peter and Elizabeth Horowitz Visual and Performing Arts Center -at Howard Community College – 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, in Columbia, MD. To order tickets, call (443) 518-1500 or order them online.