'A Midsummer Night's Dream' dishes humor, quality acting

by Mary L. Anglin

I have to admit, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" has never been one of my favorite plays.

I've seen it so many times ("Midsummer" seems to rank right up there with "Hamlet" as one of Shakespeare's most popular plays) that frankly, before last Saturday, I felt I could easily have done without ever seeing it again.

Let's just say I was pleasantly surprised by the Hilberry's current production of "Midsummer." It's not perfect, but it did leave me laughing so hard I was gasping for breath more than once.

Thankfully, the fairies aren't the usual gauzy, flitting Tinkerbells, but I still think they could use a little more oomph. Their music, effects, and Titania's and Oberon's costumes in particular just scream "campy"—Oberon (David Orley) looks like a cross between Deney Terio of "Dance Fever" and David Bowie (in his glam-rock days).

The leads are also a little bland, at least until the second act, when Dwight Tolar (as Demetrius) proves he is more than just a pretty face. Antoinette Doherty makes a terrific Helena as well—gawky as the Ugly Duckling and a truly comic underdog.

However, Bottom and his crew, the low, down and dirty "comic relief," really push their scenes to the limit, with hilarious results, especially their performance of "the tedious brief scene of young Pyramus and Thisbe." Greg Trzaskoma was of course perfectly cast as the boorish Bottom and, in the play within the play, Pyramus. But the real surprise was Karl Kippola as Peter Quince/Thisbe. I was truly amazed at how long he could milk Thisbe's death scene for laughs.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" runs in repertory through January 18 at the Hilberry Theatre, 4743 Cass. Show times are Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m., with Wednesday and Sunday matinees at 2:00 p.m. Tickets are $9.50 to $16.50, with discounts for students, seniors, staff and faculty. For more information, call (XXX) XXX-XXXX.

(Originally published in The South End, Oct. 1995)