Laid out is a stage of flowers suggesting a forest, where anything could happen, on a warm summer night at The Old Globe’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. How apropos for a whimsical play to be in an open-air theatre with the sound of birds calling in the night from the San Diego Zoo. It’s a setting to tantalize the five senses of all ages—six if you count the fairies spooking Hermia.
This is a charmingly funny and whimsical production that allows for a well-balanced cast to shine. There are returning favorites like the unforgettable Miles Anderson and Winslow Corbett (Prospero and Miranda in The Tempest - 2011), Charles Janasz who has brought levity to the stage in numerous Old Globe productions and Jay Whittaker as title role in last year’s Richard III. Then there are the students who become the master, like Ryman Sneed who is a 2011 graduate of the Old Globe/USD M.F.A. Program. So, keep your eye on the fairies and the smaller roles as these players go into more memorable roles.
Some of the memorable players are the women as they succumb to the ridiculousness of the story. Winslow Corbett’s (Hermia) tangible turn comes swiftly in her love for Lysander, her fear that Demetrius has murdered her true love and her steadfastness to prove she is not playing any trick on Helena. Corbett cannot take Sneed’s (Helena) taunts and accusations any longer. She throws her body at Sneed as Lysander (Gerber) catches her and throws her over his shoulder. Feistily, she tries to swing at Sneed while kicking in her lost lover’s arms.
Ryman Sneed (Helena) is completely sane in her obsession for Nic Few (Demetrius). Her love is sweet as puppy love as she crawls and hangs on to her unrequited love. She’s in love and willing to be what he wants her to be. How could Demetrius be repulsed by her? Few flings saliva-filled hate at her and runs on and off stage going in an imaginary circle as Helena follows. At some point Sneed's dress is torn off up to the bodice revealing her undergarments, red hair undone and glasses lost. If one is going to come undone at least it’s in the name of love.
With a dancer’s posture and lean, muscular arms Krystel Lucas (Titania) caresses the stage with her flattering costumes. She smiles as she commands the fairies to delight Miles Anderson (Bottom) in a bubble bath. From the trap door rises Bottom sitting in a bathtub with large ears and teeth surrounded by Titania and the fairies. Bubbles fill the stage or forest rather. Another grand entrance that Lucas (Titania) relishes is with her King—Oberon. Jay Whittaker (Oberon) and Lucas (Titania) are introduced by large backstage doors sliding as they rise step by step in soft lighting. They stand on the stage looking at each other, surrounded by fairies, flattering lighting, white hair and costumes, creating a breathtaking moment.
Titania’s tall wig is made of tulle with pearls in the crevices. Her dress has an irregular, sweetheart neckline that is donned with a lacy cotton. Her cotton slip dress is pieced together by something fairies would find in a forest to create for their queen. With electrified, cotton candy hair Whittaker (Oberon) stands juxtapose to his queen extending his hand to hers as he bares his chest in a white cape and pale camouflage pants, all created by Costume Designer Deirdre Clancy.
Ralph Funicello begins with an understated stage of flowers on either side to suggest a forest. Props are brought in by the workingmen from simple to elaborate, enhancing the text. Anderson as Bottom and all the workingmen walk in with red velvet railing to signify the palace allowing him to make a quip about setting up the stage. In more grandeur, from the trap opening in the floor, Anderson as the donkey, rises in a claw tub over-grown with green moss and flowers, being doted on by Titania and the fairies—quite the scene.
Infusing inspirational youth in this production is Director Ian Talbot, who played Bottom at age fourteen. He notes often times this is a child’s first Shakespeare play. “And for adults whose first Shakespeare was Dream, they get a great thrill from sitting next to a nine year old who squeals with delight,” Talbot reminisces in the Performances magazine. He has played Bottom and produced Midsummer Night’s Dream at least six times, becoming associated with the play.
This production highlights Shakespeare’s poetic verse, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” The actors take Talbot’s direction and make the plot seamless with the help of fairies threading it together. Talbot’s Midsummer Night’s Dream is a festival of merrymaking and mischievous fairies achieving squeals from children, delighting the audience.