A Midsummer Night’s Dream | Jennifer McKeever (March 2015)

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Friday, March 6, 2015
Zoellner Arts Center

By Jennifer McKeever

Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream play turned into a ballet is enough to make your head spin.  A play within a play, now a ballet makes no sense at all unless you at least read a plot overview of the play itself.  The dynamics of three realms: aristocratic, faerie, and the rustics or players, make a complicated scenario for an evening at the ballet.  Despite this dizzying complexity, I was enthralled throughout the performance by the American Repertory Ballet at Zoellner Arts Center this past Friday.

The first Act was surprisingly short but intricately choreographed to introduce all of the characters that intertwine throughout the ballet. Ionic columns and curtains slice the stage into two areas, downstage and upstage, where the dancers entered and an occasionally faeries teased.  Hippolyta (queen of the Amazons) was a lovely dancer completing perfect split leaps and used intense facial expressions with each of her subjects.  Hippolyta engaged her ladies in waiting, the Duke of Athens,( Theseus), the players to perform for her wedding, and even a sort of dream sequence with the mischievous Puck.  When a nobleman arrived with his obstinate daughter Hermia, the audience laughed as she stomped her feet, pouted and the stage was full of commotion since she was betrothed to Demetrius but in love with Lysander.  Two couples played a sort of cat and mouse game escaping each other and falling into the arms of another, weaving across the space in maniacally clever fashion.

Theatrical choreography by artistic director, Douglas Martin, engaged the audience in a whirlwind of amusing scenarios, including an interlude of the players dancing with Hippolyta in which she was at firstdisgruntled and kicked them down then realized why they were there and began to dance jovially with them, grinning all the while.  This production was so involved with the dynamics of particular personalities and moods which required skill in acting as well as a strong foundation of ballet training.

Generally speaking the movement was clean and executed with expression and feeling.  My attention was particularly drawn to the character Hermia who was quite animated and proficient in executing each step, wearing a long dress which hid her beautiful line.

The second act takes place in the forest.  The faeries with wings and shimmering costumes created a fantastic portal to the middle kingdom.  Titania, the queen of the faeries, had long flowing lovely hair. The drama of the second act began with Titania proudly displaying her young “Changeling”.  The faeries adored him. Oberon, the king of the faeries, was jealous as the faeries tried to hide the boy from him.  Oberon decides to give Puck a chance to play tricks on both the mortals and Titania with an enchanted flower essence.  Puck’s performance was elegant and poised.  He pirouetted, leapt, and soared with great technique.  Puck hovered over the sleeping Titania and at intervals the mortals as well, sprinkling his love potion. When they each awakened, they simply fell in love with the first person or thing in sight.  In this instance, it became a hilarious affair of everybody falling in love with the wrong person.  Titania fell in love with Bottom whose head appeared to be a donkey.  The duet between them was fun but silly and Titania made you believe she really was enamored with a donkey headed craftsmen.

The plot resolves as true lovers reunite in a wedding scene heralded by Felix Mendelssohn’s wedding march.  All is well in the kingdoms and Oberon takes the hand of the “Changeling” watching the sunrise on the scrim. Perhaps you will venture to seek out this ballet which is filled with scenes of frolicking in the forest, marriage to the perfect partner to the appropriate music, with a dash of humor, wit and delight.