Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Driftwood Theatre Group)

Flying fairy puppets in Driftwood Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

After hurrying ‘round a baseball diamond, a little boy yelled “Safe!” I smiled, feeling my own relief.

Grayish-pinkish clouds had hung over Driftwood Theatre Group’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Withrow Park that evening. Thankfully no rain fell.

One of the things I love most about outdoor performances is the poignancy that environment can add.

Last week I saw another site-specific show, Porch View Dances. With its family and youth themes, was aided tremendously by the cozy neighborhood it was set in, where precocious local youngsters crossed the performance areas. And, the occasional sound of sirens near Victoria Memorial Square, added an extra umph to the climax of The Loyalists.

The ominous cold breezes, and bruised sky didn’t add to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, unfortunately.

The play is a light-hearted comedy, in the classic sense going from chaos to love, and ends with swooning couples. The light-heartedness comes from a cast of fairies and players, called mechanicals, putting on a play-within-the-play.

But the uncomplimentary weather can be shrugged off, of course.

A cast of strong actors slide effortlessly between singing the text, set to Muzak-like synthetic sounds, and accompanying each other in a doo-wop-meets-barbershop way. And Driftwood Theatre offers patrons beach chairs, which can be set-up anywhere – “there is no ‘front of the stage’,” I was informed, “you can sit on any side of the stage” – so it’s easy to get comfortable.

The musical adaptation is the brainchild of Kevin Fox, Tom Lillington, and D. Jeremy Smith.

The cool thing about it is that it enhances the musicality of William Sharespeare’s text.

But the drawback is that, much like a generic pop song, it’s easy to get lost in the rhythm and forget about the words – the puns and jokes. Shakespeare purists may not like that.

On the other hand, let me be totally frank, when it comes to Shakespeare’s jokes more often than not, I go ‘Oh, that’s funny,’ but rarely laugh. They’re clever, but don’t tickle. So, for me, losing track of the lines to get more caught-up in the rhythm and physicality of the work was fine, even preferable.

One gentleman sitting off in a darkened part of the park was laughing a lot throughout the show. So, if one knows the text already, hearing it brought to life, you may get a kick out of the humor.

For me though, the joy came from the theatricality of the show, everything from the flying fairy puppets to the costumes of the mechanicals, to staging that made clever use of “in the round,” was well done.

If you get a chance to go on a nice hot night with a thermos of lemonade, it’d be a superb experience. The production tours the province after finishing up in Toronto; for details please see Driftwood Theatre’s website.

 

Details

– A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays at Withrow Park (725 Logan Avenue) until July 29th
– Showtime is 7:30 PM
– Tickets are pay-what-you-can; with a suggested donation of $15.00
– For more information, please see Driftwood Theatre Group’s website, driftwoodtheatre.com