The plot of Midsummer is familiar to most theater-goers, being a frequently produced play. Lysander loves Hermia and she him, but her father Theseus, duke of Athens, has betrothed her to Demetrius, who also loves her although she does not return his love. Lysander and Hermia vow to run away together, and Helena, whose love for Demetrius has recently been rejected, tells him so that he will follow, and she in turn follows him. As we know, strange things can happen when you go into the woods, especially in this case as the young lovers encounter a group of mischievous fairies, who delight in nothing more than creating havoc among humans (if you've ever found an object in a different location than you left it, that might be fairies at work). Through a series of mix-ups, both Demetrius and Lysander are bewitched into believing they love Helena, who, like a nerdy teenager tired of being the butt of jokes, does not believe them. Hermia is confused, devastated, and then furious at this turn of events, and the mayhem continues until the fairies decide to set things right again. Another subplot follows a troupe of actors rehearsing for a play, suffering from the most horrible and hilarious actorly cliches, which allows for some delightful poking fun at oneself. Oh, and one of them is turned into an ass and is wooed by the queen of the fairies. It's a whole lot of silliness that allows for some wonderful encounters, fights, conversations, and dances among the large cast of characters.
|Puck and the flying fairies (photo by Dan Norman)|
|the Actors (Jay Albright, Peter Thomson, Andrew Weems,|
Kris L. Nelson, Angela Timberman, and Michael Fell,
photo by Dan Norman)
|the Lovers (Emily Kitchens, Casey Hoekstra, Zach Keenan,|
and Eleonore Dendy, photo by Dan Norman)
For this production, the Guthrie has added a half dozen rows of bleacher seating around the back of the thrust stage, creating an in-the-round effect, almost like you're at the circus. If you're lucky enough to snag one of these seats (available online or call the box office for details), you're led down a stairway and into a secret hallway through the bowels* of the Guthrie, and suddenly you arrive on the stage. There are plenty of ushers and signs along the way so that you don't "accidentally" wander off into a restricted area. It's a great place from which to watch the show, although some of the effects of the video projections at the back of the stage are lost because you have to tear your eyes away from the stage (a difficult task) to look behind you at the screen. One of the reasons it's so difficult to turn away from the stage is Fabio Toblini's gorgeously rich costumes, from Hippolyta's elegant gowns, to the lovers' modern clothing, to the actors' silly get-ups, to the fairies' barely there tribal pieces.
It may be dreary bitter midwinter here in Minnesota, but it feels like warm and colorful midsummer on the Guthrie's thrust stage. The magical, mystical, mischievous dream continues through the end of March. It's not a short play (clocking in at about three hours including intermission), but it's chock full of delights for the eyes, ears, mind, and heart.
*If you want to see more of the bowels of the Guthrie, take a backstage tour, offered most weekends.
This article also appears on Broadway World Minneapolis.