Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.

A Midsummer Night's Dream
Folger Theatre
Review by Susan Berlin | Season Schedule

Also see Susan's announcement of the 2015 Helen Hayes Awards Nominations and her reviews of Between Riverside and Crazy and The Glass Menagerie


Erin Weaver and Holly Twyford
Photo by Teresa Wood
The Folger Theatre in Washington is presenting an effervescent production of A Midsummer Night's Dream highlighted by the presence of Holly Twyford as Bottom and Erin Weaver as Puck.

Director Aaron Posner makes the most of the Folger's Elizabethan Theater in bringing William Shakespeare's comic-romantic fantasy to life; audience members in aisle seats may get some up-close attention from Weaver as she makes her way through the house. She also opens the performance with a greeting in rhymed couplets that welcomes the audience—but not their cell phones.

Posner is working with an enthusiastic cast of 14 who sing (original music by Andre Pluess), dance (choreography by Erika Chong Shuch), and throw themselves into the various complications of Shakespeare's three-level plot. Large floor cushions are a major component of Paige Hathaway's multi-leveled scenic design, allowing actors to flop and fall without hurting themselves.

Devon Painter's costumes are roughly contemporary: Theseus (Eric Hissom), the proud duke of Athens, wears a crisp military uniform; Hippolyta (Caroline Stefanie Clay), the queen of the Amazons he is about to marry, looks regal in her gown and African-inspired headdress; and the mismatched lovers wear street clothes. Hissom and Clay double as Oberon and Titania, who may be royalty among the fairies but are dressed in sparkly rags.

As envisioned by Posner, the "rude mechanicals" are students in a girls' school, led by teachers Peter Quince (Richard Ruiz, appropriately pompous) and redheaded "Nicky" Bottom (Twyford). While some of the students bring unique flavor to their roles in the play-within-a-play—Flute (Dani Stoller) is rangy and doesn't want to play the female lead; Snug (Megan Graves), who plays the lion, is barely audible by design—when Twyford is on, there's no reason to look anywhere else.

Traditionally, Bottom is a character whose love for acting far outstrips his (or her) skill. Posner and Twyford, a four-time recipient of the Helen Hayes Award, have found a very different interpretation, an actor who begins as a swaggering and overbearing presence in rehearsal but gives a genuinely sensitive performance before Theseus. Of course, some of that heightened awareness comes from the period after Puck transmutes her into an ass: through Painter's costume design, Twyford gains "hooves" that force her to walk on her toes with her heels in the air, she brays and talks through oversized front teeth, and she looks adorable with donkey ears.

Folger Theatre
A Midsummer Night's Dream
January 26th - March 6th
By William Shakespeare
Starveling: Justina Adorno
Egeus: Elliott Bales
Demetrius: Desmond Bing
Lysander: Adam Wesley Brown
Hippolyta/Titania: Caroline Stefanie Clay
Snug/Philostrate: Megan Graves
Theseus/Oberon: Eric Hissom
Hermia: Betsy Mugavero
Snout: Monique Robinson
Peter Quince: Richard Ruiz
Francis Flute: Dani Stoller
Bottom: Holly Twyford
Puck: Erin Weaver
Helena: Kim Wong
Directed by Aaron Posner
201 E. Capitol St., S.E.
Washington, DC
Ticket Information: 202-544-7077 or www.folger.edu


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