The Pandemic Players of Baltimore have leaped into the fray, filling the void being experienced by arts-starved audiences with a virtual production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” all the while giving new meaning to the well-worn phrase, “the show must go on.”
As the play gets underway, the actors, each of whom is being live-streamed from a separate location, appear on screen in oval-shaped frames amidst a variety of exotic backdrops, as the Bard’s well-loved narrative—one of magic potions, fantastical characters, and outlandish twists—unfolds.
Truly an ensemble piece, Director Paul Valleau has assembled a skilled and enthusiastic cast that delivers a sharp, clear, and committed delivery of Shakespeare’s text. Each cast member makes a significant contribution to the play’s success, gracing the screen with poise and vitality. Stand-out performances include Matt Leyendecker (Theseus/Oberon), Lisa Rigsby (Hermia), Molly Mayne (Helena), Robin Schwartz (Hippolyta/Titania), David Cooper (Lysander), and Josh Visnapuu (Demetrius). And of course, critically important to the realization of this production is the masterful Stephen M. Deininger (video and tech director).
Each cast member makes a significant contribution to the play’s success, gracing the screen with poise and vitality.
As much as I enjoyed this production, I felt moments of wistfulness for the temporary loss of access to live theatre we’re all experiencing. However, the online format is not without its perks.
For instance, similar to Elizabethan-era audiences who typically shared their thoughts out loud during performances—sometimes even yelling directly at the actors—virtual performances come with a comment section under the screen where one can express one’s feelings, critique the actors, or even chit chat throughout the play with others so inclined—without incurring the wrath of modern-day theatre goers. As an added bonus, you can wear sweat pants, take drinks into the theatre, and enjoy the distinctly 21st-century option of applauding via hand-clapping emojis.
Although Shakespeare’s “Dream” is one of his most-performed works, I believe it will resonate with audiences today in ways it might not have pre-pandemic. We are living in a strange time, with strange characters, startling twists, and unexpected turns—almost dream-like, one could say, which makes the claim in Puck’s (Sami Peterson) final speech an oddly soothing one to a COVID-weary world:
“If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended—
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream…”
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes with a 5-minute intermission.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was live streamed on April 11. To view a recording of this production, click here. To learn about upcoming events, click here. There is no cost to view the show, but the Pandemic Players do ask for a donation if you are able, all contributions going to support the Children’s Theatre of Annapolis during this difficult time.