Pin It
Favorite

Lovers and Madmen 

Interplayers and EWU join forces to stage a wonderful performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream

click to enlarge Nich Witham (center) plays the mischieveous Puck in Interplayers' A Midsummer Night's Dream. - SARAH WURTZ
  • Sarah Wurtz
  • Nich Witham (center) plays the mischieveous Puck in Interplayers' A Midsummer Night's Dream.

When Theseus, Duke of Athens, waxes philosophical by lumping together "the lunatic, the lover and the poet," he hits on something closer to the heart of A Midsummer Night's Dream than the far more frequently quoted axiom by Lysander that "the course of true love never did run smooth."

He's suggesting that all three individuals fall prey to wild imaginings and fantasies, the very same ones that drive the intertwining plots of Shakespeare's whimsical play: the ragtag Mechanicals, poets in their own fevered minds; the quartet of lovers, who take turns abasing themselves for each other's affections; and the forest fairies, that troupe of unpredictable madmen and -women who think that transmogrifying the unsuspecting is a fun way to pass the time.

This co-production between Eastern Washington University and Interplayers, directed by EWU lecturer Jeff Sanders (Macbeth, It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play), serves Midsummer well by maintaining an uncommon balance among these three parts. Impish Puck (Nich Witham) gets more blacklight than limelight; he remains firmly under the thumb of temperamental Oberon (Brian Demar Jones, who also plays Theseus). Jaclyn Archer's Helena is fierce and assertive, even when she's on all fours imploring Demetrius (Paden Vance) to "[u]se me but as your spaniel — spurn me, strike me, / Neglect me, lose me." If ever that balance becomes skewed, it's when Sanders threatens to steal his own show as Nick Bottom, the overconfident, malapropism-prone weaver turned donkey.

Shana Joslyn's set is unassuming at first: two raised circular platforms painted a blotchy green. But the rear one conceals trap doors that the characters use, like Laugh-In's joke wall, to deliver lines or appear and vanish in ways that add to the mischief and the humor. For the first time in recent memory, the set also cleverly makes use of the area normally reserved for backstage. It's where, for instance, spellbound Titania (Sara Goff, who also plays Hippolyta) cuddles in a hammock with her asinine lover, backdropped by an ethereal purple light.

So many other things are elegantly thought out. Incidental gestures and accents like an untucked shirttail subtly complement the dialogue. The blocking manages to be both natural and exactingly precise, which is even more impressive considering the size of the cast. And what a cast it is. To call out the actors best suited to their parts would read like a dramatis personae; there is such an incredible mix of young and veteran talent on display here.

That makes this Midsummer everything it can and should be: absurd, hilarious, bawdy, captivating, illuminating and even a little contemplative, since Sanders has bookended the play with a hospital scene. Taking this kind of metaphysical, dream-within-a-dream approach is an interesting touch, but connecting the two in a relevant way takes a bit of a stretch. Whatever unsatisfying ambiguity that might introduce is inconsequential, though. There is so, so much to enjoy about this production and take home at the end of a delightful midsummer evening. ♦

A Midsummer Night's Dream • Through Aug. 17: Thu-Sat, 7:30 pm; Sun, 2 pm • $28 ($22 seniors, active military; $12 students) • Interplayers • 174 S. Howard • interplayerstheatre.org • 455-7529

  • Pin It

Speaking of Theater

  • Creeping Out
  • Creeping Out

    Sex and science collide in Stage Left's locally written new comedy
    • Feb 18, 2015
  • Returns and Beginnings
  • Returns and Beginnings

    After 14 years away, Patrick Treadway returns to the Civic to direct The Servant of Two Masters
    • Jan 14, 2015
  • More »

Latest in Arts & Culture

  • Mind Games
  • Mind Games

    The Inland Northwest is home to a sizable and highly competitive community of Magic: The Gathering players
    • Feb 25, 2015
  • Kennel Club Cribs
  • Kennel Club Cribs

    What it's like to spend a night in the cold just to get a good seat for the Zags game
    • Feb 25, 2015
  • Mosey On In, You're Part of History
  • Mosey On In, You're Part of History

    Distilled: A shot of life
    • Feb 25, 2015
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Today | Wed | Thu | Fri | Sat | Sun | Mon
Two by Two

Two by Two @ Eastern Washington University

Mondays-Fridays, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through March 13

All of today's events | Staff Picks

More by E.J. Iannelli

  • Get Thee to a Nunnery
  • Get Thee to a Nunnery

    After more than a decade, the all-male version of the popular musical Nunsense returns to the Civic stage
    • Feb 25, 2015
  • Garland University of the Arts
  • Garland University of the Arts

    One small strip of businesses can teach you to sew, quilt, act, paint, weave and play the bass
    • Feb 18, 2015
  • More »

Most Commented On

  • Trapped by Debt

    Reflecting on the financial — and emotional — toll of student loans
    • Feb 11, 2015
  • The Food Guru

    The timing couldn't be better for food expert Alton Brown to check out Spokane's dining scene
    • Feb 25, 2015
  • More »

© 2015 Inlander
Website powered by Foundation