Curtains up on a 1920s Athens in The Arlington Players (TAP) retelling of the classic tale “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The stage was adorned by beautifully painted, removable set pieces that ranged from wooden blocks to a two-story flat and a rose-adorned, fully-functional fountain, thanks to the work of set designer, David M. Moretti and properties design and set dressing by Katherine Offut. Director Erin Branigan introduced the characters with a musical pre-show with original music by Donna Korn (who also provided music throughout the production.) The fairies entered to fluttering flutes; bouncing jazz introduced the Duke; upbeat drums led the workers on; and a soft violin accompanied the lovers.
Throughout the production, I was impressed by the artistry displayed by the creators and performers.
The costume design by Anna Marquardt was an integral part of the experience. The “human” cast was dressed in period garb that helped delineate familial and romantic ties. The Duke and his bride were dressed in fine furs and fabrics. Helenus and Demetria donned blues and greens while Hermius and Lysandra were dressed in reds, pinks, and browns. (Note the gender swapping in the names and characters.) I appreciated that the costume designer leaned into the actors’ interpretations. In this production, Hermius was in all pink and was more emotional and outspoken than his sensible Lysandra. The working-class acting troupe was dressed in denim with patches to distinguish them from the nobility.
The fairies were in a world of their own, with whimsical patterns and headdresses that clued the audience to their personalities. Oberon was the sea, dressed from head to toe in a blue toga with seashells across the front of the costume. Titania was the harvest in a golden dress and a wheat crown. Other fairies were dressed as a cloud, bubbles, autumn leaves, and a spring bloom. The costuming kept the fairies tied closely to their forest realm and helped to delineate them from the rest of the players.
The play follows several different, intertwined stories of star-crossed lovers, workmen putting on a play, and mischievous fairies confusing the characters. If you are familiar with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” then you would be grateful for the thought and effort displayed by the creative team to help the audience keep track of the characters. Throughout the production, I was impressed by the artistry displayed by the creators and performers.
This cast went well beyond expectations. Shakespeare can be daunting to some but the energy and pacing in this performance kept the audience intrigued. The actors made big choices that made their characters’ intentions clear and wittily embraced Shakespeare’s proclivity for breaking the fourth wall. While the entire company made the evening enjoyable, notable performances included Helenus (Mike Kelley), Puck (Apollo Yong), Nick Bottom (Ben Lowater), Peter Quince (Steve Rosenthal), Snout (Kate Ives), Snug (Rachel Fine), and Mustardseed (Sean Laraway).
Dance breaks were included to mask set changes. They were very stylistic and kept the flow of the show moving.
In the director Erin Branigan’s own words, this show will inspire you to “keep looking for magic in your life, long after you’ve left the theater.” Something, I believe, we all need.
Running time: Two hours and 45 minutes with one intermission.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” ran from July 1-10, 2022 by The Arlington Players, 125 S Old Glebe Road, Arlington, VA 22204. For more information and tickets on upcoming shows, go to their website.