The Duquesne Red Masquers’ adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by John Lane, is a comical dive into Shakespeare’s fairy-land.
The stage harkens to a 1960s theme, with tie-dyed sheets around the fairies’ cave, moons and rainbows painted on the floor, and pastel canopies hanging over the audiences’ heads. However, the only characters that fit 1960s personas are the fairies and the craftsmen. The craftsmen are dressed as beatniks in all-black garb and French berets, each with a signature interpretive dance movement. The most hippie-like fairies we see are Oberon and his Puck, played by Nathaniel Yost and Abby Blackmon, respectively, who throughout the play take hits of their joints. Although there were times that the joint-smoking worked, such as when it signaled a new bout of mischief from the tricksters, it generally felt gratuitous.
The show’s opening scene was lackluster, save for a dynamic and overpowering performance by Eric Matthews as Egeus. In fact, The Athenians’ performances paled compared to that of the fairies until the four star-crossed lovers were pushed into the fairy-land. When Demetrius, played by Logan Schmucker, awoke with a newfound love for Helena, his overdramatic performance induced riotous laughter.
Jeff Way portrays Nick Bottom, the overconfident craftsman, quite vividly, with an excellent stage presence and a natural delivery. Though his fellow craftsmen’s performances are less authentic, it works for the amateur nature of their roles in the craftsmen’s play.
Laura Donaldson’s Titania emerges through the stage floor, then captures the stage with her regal and haughty demeanor. She delivers her lines effortlessly. Like a true Queen of Fairies, she keeps her presence commanding but with glimpses of a fiery, pixie nature.
For all the positive and compelling components of this Dream, the addition of the “diva fairy backup singers,” who belt out three hits from the ’60s, adds nothing to the production. In fact, the off-key delivery of the classic songs detracts from an otherwise cohesive performance.
Overall, however, this Dream has a cast of characters who work well together, and the show tickles the funny bone of every audience member.