Back to Stage

Theater Review: "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Tacoma Little Theatre's take on classic comedy is fast and hilarious

Bottom and Titania: Michael J. Griswold and Nicole Lockett in TLT's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo credit: DK Photography

Recommend Article
Total Recommendations (0)
Clip Article Email Article Print Article Share Article

First off, it's A Midsummer Night's Dream, not Midsummer's or Midsummers. Er, not that you would know anyone who doesn't actually know the correct way to say the title of this particular Shakespeare comedy. Secondly, Shakespeare can be a bit inaccessible for the average Joe and many a community theater company has butchered it so badly as to make the audience loathe ever catching another production of The Bard's works. So leave it to director Suzy Wilhoft and Tacoma Little Theatre to open their 2014/2015 season with something that could go so, so wrong. Fortunately it doesn't and the audience is presented a modest start and a whiz-bang finish.

Wilhoft is a local director, teacher and actor. This is her sixth full-length Shakespeare play in addition to last year's TLT production of The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) [Revised] so it is more than fair to say she knows her way around the linguistic and comedic challenges that put Shakespeare on the map. Wilhoft takes a few liberties, which is a risky endeavor when presenting a play with such history. It is such a well-loved play that snippets of it have shown up in a myriad of places within pop culture (in honor of Shakespeare's 400th anniversary, The Beatles staged a spoof of Act V, Scene I on the televised show About the Beatles).

Notably she imagines the play set in the present. This solves the challenge of costuming but without reading the Director's Note, audience members may be a bit confused at the outset. The contemporary costuming seems a bit at odds with Shakespearean language at first but once the actors own their characters (and the pacing picks up), everything works. Wilhoft also wonders if the moon is the center of it all and set designer Erin Manza Chanfrau creates a gorgeous minimalist set that uses a richly colored lighting design by Niclas R. Olson to indicate a change in setting.

>>> The Mechanicals: Michael J. Griswold, Adrianna Littlejohn, Ali Rose Schultz, Kaitlin Dresdner, Everett McCracken and Courtney Rainerin TLT's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo credit: DK Photography

All but four of the actors play multiple roles and all are adept. Myia Johnson portrays one of the mismatched lovers, Hermia (her only role). The ease with which she wraps her tongue and voice around her lines during Act I draws the audience into the story. She is matched by Cassie Jo Fastabend who plays Helena, another mismatched lover and long time friend of Hermia. Fastabend is brilliant with facial expression, gestures, and timing and seems so completely comfortable with her lines it seems that Shakespearean language was her native tongue. Michael J. Griswold embodies Bottom (a weaver) and Pyramus (an actor) with such conviction and hilarity that he elicits guffaws and shrieks of laughter from the audience. All three use space and physicality to their advantage and when all three are onstage, it is incredibly fun to watch.

The pacing of Act II was so quick and the timing flawless that the play didn't seem the (roughly) two and a half hours it took. Even if Shakespeare is not really your thing, or if you've never seen any of The Bard's works, A Midsummer Night's Dream at Tacoma Little Theatre would be a great choice.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday, through Oct. 5, Tacoma Little Theatre, 210 N. I St., Tacoma, $15-$22, 253.272.2481

>>> Myia Johnson as Hermia and Cassie Jo Fastabend as Helena in TLT's A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo credit: DK Photography

comments powered by Disqus

Site Search