WHAT’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ Is A Riotous Romp

Nathaniel Hall Taylor, Hope Cervantes in 'A Midsummer Night's dream' (photo: Michael & Suz Karchmer)

Nathaniel Hall Taylor, Hope Cervantes in ‘A Midsummer Night’s dream’ (photo: Michael & Suz Karchmer)

‘Tis a dream, a flight of fancy, a riotous romp, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It’s a magical co-production by Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater and Peregrine Theatre Ensemble of William Shakespeare’s comedy about mismatched lovers rendezvousing in a wooded fairyland, governed by Oberon and Titania, king and queen of the fairies. It is midsummer madness capturing the adventures of the mischievous Puck and a gambol with rustics who insert their play within a play.

Christopher Ostrom’s timeless costumes and minimalist stage design — a grassy plot, a few cubes, a crescent moon, pillows and coverlets — set the scene for lots of action and creative movements, and, of course, the lyrical words of the Bard.

The actors are all having great fun. The comedy is vigorous and there’s hardly a time to take a breath. (If there is one suggestion, we would like to hear some of the actors speak a bit slower so we could caress some of Shakespeare’s wonderful, sometimes obscure, words, which in modern times need some space.) Yet this fast-paced, rhythmic production, artfully directed by WHAT’s executive artistic director Jeffry George and managing director Ostrom, cavorts so delightfully that the picture is bright and clear.

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Nathaniel Hall Taylor, Amy Jo Jackson (Photo: Michael & Suz Karchmer)

Several actors play dual roles. Nathaniel Hall Taylor is the lordly Theseus, Duke of Athens, and Oberon. He ably captures two personas with ease: the staid duke and the agile Oberon. In Oberon’s efforts to trick Titania, he prances across the stage, setting in motion his agent Puck to make mischief.

Hope Cervantes is the effervescent Puck, fliting around with potions to alter the desires of the four lovers who have escaped the laws of Athens by taking flight into the magical woods. The nimble Cervantes darts and dives and delights as she works her misdeeds with a potion, which sprinkled on a sleeping Titania, nicely portrayed by Amy Jo Jackson, makes her fall in love with the first person she sees when she wakes. And that is the weaver Bottom, who has been crowned with an ass’s head. As Bottom, the marvelous Adam Berry is a comedic wonder, dashing and swooping, full of delightful antics.

Amy Jo Jackson, Adam Berry, Holly Hansen (Photo: Michael & Suz Karchmer)

Amy Jo Jackson, Adam Berry, Holly Hansen (Photo: Michael & Suz Karchmer)

Ben Berry is the passionate lover Lysander, of Hermia and then Helena. As he says, “The course of true love never did run smooth.” And of course there is no smooth sailing until the end. When Berry and Nathan Winkelstein, who avidly plays Demetrius, at first enchanted with Hermia, have a pillow fight over the maidens, the action accelerates and feathers fly.

Claire Tyers, as Hermia, and Amanda Cate Fuller, as Helena, commandingly carry on their own battles over the men in their lives. The entire cast makes merry, so not to worry. As in another Shakespeare play, all’s well that ends well. The lovers find their true mates and Theseus marries Hippolyta (Amy Jo Jackson in her second role). And there is a celebration, which is where the play within a play comes in with the rustics comically performing a tragedy that has a reference to “Romeo and Juliet.”

Amanda Cate Fuller, Nathan Winkelstein, Claire Tyers, Ben Berry (Photo: Michael & Suz Karchmer)

Amanda Cate Fuller, Nathan Winkelstein, Claire Tyers, Ben Berry (Photo: Michael & Suz Karchmer)

The two Berrys, Adam as Pyramus, and Ben, donning scarlet bra and skirt, as his lover Thisby, try to connect through a wall played by one of their cohorts. This final scene is a laugh-out-loud delight.

As Puck declares: “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” Fools, maybe, but such fun. Those treasured Shakespeare words come alive four centuries after his death in this joyful production. As Puck declares, speaking to the audience at the end, consider it all a dream — a fanciful vision for a midsummer night in March.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is performed at Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater, 2357 Route 6 in Wellfleet through April 3. For tickets and information, you may call 508-349-9428, and online at www.what.org.

— Debbie Forman

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