Humber River Shakespeare wraps up A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Etobicoke tomorrow
I was lucky to see Humber River Shakespeare’s performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream directed by Kevin Hammond. The performance was both the first and last show to happen in Etienne Brule park by Old Mill. It was a gorgeous, clear day, perfect for an outdoor performance. I walked down the pathway along the Humber to a clearing of green grass lined with lawn chairs and blankets. People had brought entire picnics with them, snacking as the actors warmed up beside costume racks only a few feet away.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is, in my opinion, one of William Shakespeare’s most accessible plays. It has incredible language and witty banter along with playful shenanigans and mishaps that children can enjoy. It’s short – for Shakespeare – and sweet.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream follows three intertwining stories: forbidden young lovers Hermia and Lysander and those that meddle in their lives. Oberon and Titania, fairy rulers of the forest, are in the middle of their own quarrel. In the meantime, a group of handymen decide to perform a play in front of King Theseus and his bride Hippolyta. The handymen are led by the bafflingly confident Bottom, who wanders into a magical situation beyond his wildest dreams.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream was introduced with a musical number. The actors filed onto the “stage” while singing songs about love. They were accompanied by acoustic guitars and a few kazoos. I enjoyed how the night began in a harmonious sing-a-long on the grass, as if the troupe was easing us into the ridiculousness of the story.
The acting was well done with the serious roles, along with the comical ones. Steve Coombes commanded the stage as Oberon and Theseus. Madeleine Donohue was regal as Hippolyta and Titania. Isaac Giles was a solid Demetrius, but shone in his comic roles as Flute and Peaseblossom. Giles has a moment of absolute brilliance, which involves a trail of popcorn. Grace Gordon was a perfectly desperate and pitiful Helena. Gordon also did great as the character Snout, who appeared like a slouchy frat-boy and did a spot-on rendition of a wall.
Jordin Hall and Michaela DiCesare were sweet as Lysander and Hermia. M.E Lewis transformed into his roles of Quince and Egeus, so much that I thought they were played by two different people. Tim MacLean as Bottom was just quintessentially Bottom. He was egotistical and rude, but in a harmless and lovable way. MacLean’s donkey laugh was a nice touch.
Finally, Matt Pilipiak played Puck and the minor character Philostrate. He was fantastic. There should be more of him in the show, even if that goes against the script. I would watch him eat popcorn in the background for an hour. He was that entertaining.
I felt like Humber River Shakespeare fully embraced the silliness of the show. The acting was loud and exciting. The costumes, arranged by set and costume designer Brandon Kleiman, were vibrant. At times, the actors looked like they had jumped outside of a technicolour cartoon. Bottom wore neon yellow shorts, a teal blazer, pink socks pulled-up his calves, a checkered purple shirt, and a bright pink fedora. It was a clash of colours and a total fashion disaster. It was an excellent choice for Bottom, because he believes he’s a worldly man, but fails executing his worldly knowledge. I think Kleiman made sure the wardrobe added to the characters, while also having a lot of fun.
There were a few outstanding factors that interrupted my enjoyment of the show. The actors’ voices were occasionally interrupted by an ice cream truck’s jingle and I was bitten by mosquitoes more than I would like, but that’s the risk of being outside. If Humber River Shakespeare could stop mosquitoes, I’m sure they would.
This show is a part of Humber River Shakespeare’s summer touring production, reminiscent of traditional acting troupes moving from town to town. They have reached communities around the Humber like King, Caledon, Newmarket, Aurora, Mississauga, Georgina, Vaughn, Toronto, and Etobicoke. Humber River Shakespeare is completing their 9th season of touring, and will be finishing A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Montgomery’s Inn in Etobicoke. Grab fold-out chair and see them before the tour ends!
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Humber River Shakespeare) is touring until Sunday July 31, 2016.
- Final shows are taking place at Montgomery’s Inn, Etobicoke, on Saturday and Sunday July 30 and 31 at 7:00pm
- All performances are PWYC. Donations of $20 suggested.
- Audience advisory: Bring a fold-out chair or picnic blanket for your own seating.
Photo of Michaela DiCesare and Jordin Hall by Neil Silcox