In the Vital Theater production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, director John Ficarra has probed the sexual and dark elements of the Shakespeare favorite in an overall engaging production.
An extraterrestrial-like Oberon and vampire-like Titania are King and Queen of the Fairies, and a beer-bellied rebel lacking social graces is Puck. Yes, the character interpretations are striking, but the viewer finds comfort in accepting the production for what it is—ridiculous—and witnessing the imaginative performances of several talented actors. Justification for probing the sexual and dark elements of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is not offered, but the probing has forced the actors to develop original perspectives for their characters. Their inventiveness threatens to upstage and lose the heart of the piece at times, but their performances are inspiring.
As the four lovers, Aaron Simms, Kristin Price, Sorsha Miles, and Linda Jones are excellent. Actors oftentimes recite Shakespeare with breath-filled voices, dramatic phrasing, and emphasized iambic pentameter. Simms, Price, Miles, and Jones, however, make the language fresh with their spirited performances. As Demetrius, Simms exudes perfect Alpha Male pheromones when fighting for Hermia—the wonderful Miles—who now loves another woman. In her now gender-bending role, Jones is not a disappointment. Her acting is sharp and hilarious, and is the highlight of the production.
Laura LeBleu and Sara Moore are excellent as well. LeBleu makes Titania an interesting character as opposed to one that Oberon and Bottom upstage. LeBleu exudes perfect doses of passion and heat that the role requires. Moore is the perfect Bottom. Her comic timing and expressive qualities are driven from character. Watching her movements and facial expressions when she is not speaking—its own experience—shows her dedication to the role.
If ever Shakespeare had grounds to roll in his grave, this production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is it. However, what makes Shakespeare dramas interesting is their willingness and openness to off-the-wall interpretations, and this is what the Vital Theater proves.