Theater of Dare takes on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

By on March 2, 2019

In one of the final scenes of a Midsummer Night's Dream, Puck (Rob Jenkins) attempts to peer though the Wall (Chelsea Jenkins) as the Duke of Athens (Tim Hass) and Hippolyta (Penelope Carroll) look on. Photo Kip Tabb

In one of the final scenes, Shaun Olson playing Nick Bottom attempts to peer though the Wall (Chelsea Jenkins) as the Duke of Athens (Tim Hass) and Hippolyta (Penelope Carroll) look on. (Kip Tabb)

For 28 years the Theater of Dare avoided Shakespeare. Perhaps not avoided so much as they just did not perform any of the bard’s plays.

After seeing the production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Roanoke Island Festival Park this past weekend, the question that immediately comes to mind is “why?”

Very well acted, paced perfectly with some nice staging effects, the Theater of Dare play was Shakespeare done right.

It is one of Shakespeare’s most accessible plays. The language is the Elizabethan verse that all playwrights of that time used. However, there is a wide use of rhymed couplets that makes the words easier to comprehend.

An example?

Hermia (Adara Huls) and Lysander (Lee Brooks) are in love, but the match is bitterly opposed by Hermia’s father. The couple decide to elope — there’s much more to this, but we’ll get back to the plot later — and Lysander suggests they meet in the forest outside of Athens. Hermia agrees saying:

“In that same place thou hast appointed me,
To-morrow truly will I meet with thee.”

A brief synopsis

The plot? Well, it’s a comedy, and unlike Shakespeare’s tragedies featuring tightly constructed stories that flow to an inevitable and tragic end, the plot of his comedies are absurd across the board. But they always lead to a certain and joyous conclusion. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” may be the most absurd of them all.

Titania (Kelsey Thompson) declares her undying love for Puck.

Titania (Kelsey Thompson) declares her undying love for Bottom.

Hermia and Lysander are in love, but Demetrius also claims to be in love with Hermia, and Demetrius is the favorite of Egeus, Hermia’s father.

Egeus demands that his daughter marry Demetrius. Hermia refuses. Lysander and Demetrius argue, with Lysander saying that he and Hermia should be married. But since Egeus finds such great favor in Demetrius, perhaps the two of them could also be married.

The Duke of Athens, played with regal pride and a touch of befuddlement is, a friend of Egeus, and he decrees that by the law of the City, Hermia must obey her father. If she does not, her choice is to forfeit her life or vow to never take a lover.

Meanwhile Helena is in love with Demetrius, following him around like a lost puppy, saying over and over again how much she adores him. Demetrius wants nothing to do with her.

Hermia and Lysander make plans to meet in the forest and elope to a distant city. They confess their plan to Helena, thinking they can trust her. Helena, hoping to curry Demetrius’ favor divulges their plans.

Out in the Fairy Kingdom there is domestic strife. Queen Titania, tired of King Oberon’s philandering, tells the gathered fairies that she will not be sharing his intimacies. “I have forsworn his bed and company.”

But Oberon plans his vengeance. He knows of a flower that when the nectar is drizzled upon the eyes during sleep will cause that person to fall passionately and completely in love with the first animal or person they see.

He sends his chief minion, Puck, to find the flower.

While Puck is searching, Helena and Demetrius wander by, with Helena telling Demetrius that she is the better mate for him and if he would only give her a chance. Oberon feels Demetrius is unfair and hurtful in his disdain and decides to do something about it.

When Puck returns he tells him to take one of the flowers and drizzle the nectar in the eyes of Demetrius.

“Thou shalt know the man

By the Athenian garments he hath on.”

Unfortunately, the first sleeping man in Athenian garments Puck comes to is Lysander, who is in the forest with Hermia. Helena is the first person Lysander sees upon awakening.

Oberon’s plan to teach his wife a lesson seems to go well. Upon awakening the first being she sees is the weaver Bottom, a would be actor of dubious talent, who now wears the head of an ass courtesy of Puck.

There are more twists and turns, but somehow it all ends happily.

The Players

Helena (Emily Mohler) on left and Hermia (Adara Huts) discuss the foibles of the men they love.

Helena (Emily Mohler) on left and Hermia (Adara Huts) discuss the foibles of the men they love. The misty look is the diaphanous curtain in front of them.

What made this production so enjoyable was how consistently good the acting was. The love of Hermia and Lysander seemed innocent and sweet. Emily Mohler as Helena followed Demetrius through the city and into the forest, yet somehow retained her pride. When she felt she was being played for a fool after Lysander awoke with love in his eyes, she stood up for herself, accusing Lysander and Demetrius of conspiring in a cruel joke.

The interplay between Oberon (Daniel Zieglar) and Titania (Kelsey Thompson) when the couple was fighting seemed like a window into marital strife. Rob Jenkins as Puck was excellent and Shaun Olson as Bottom had just the right amount of bombast, bluster and naiveté.

A very nice staging touch was the diaphanous curtain that gave everything happening behind it a dreamlike quality—perfect for a midsummer night’s dream.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will wrap up this weekend with a Saturday evening performances and a Sunday matinee.

Next up for the Theater of Dare will be “The Nerd” with weekend performances April 5-14.

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That is Bottom in the photos but you have it captioned as Puck. Nice review though!