'A Midsummer Night' is a dream for all ages Review: Mixing poetry with a strong cast, Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre offers an enchanting show that even Bard beginners can appreciate.

July 16, 1998|By Phil Greenfield | Phil Greenfield,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I saw Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" last Thursday night and, true to the theme of Shakespeare's comedy of mortals and fairies, I came away enchanted.

Not only was the production well-done (more on that in a moment), but the theater was packed, the audience had a marvelous time, and among those laughing loudest were many youngsters getting perhaps their first whiff of the Bard in all his glory.

The play itself is the thing, of course, so how doth it fare? In most respects, forsooth, it's terrific.

One of two things usually happens in amateur Shakespeare, and both are bad. Sometimes, the play becomes a costumed poetry reading, as it takes so much energy for the actors simply to get the words out that the life-sustaining physicality of Shakespeare's characters gets lost.

Other productions (especially of the tragedies) work so hard to spike up the intensity that the beauty of the poetry disappears into the consuming passion of the characters.

In ASGT's "Dream," we get the poetry in spades plus some wonderfully drawn characters.

We get the lovely Cynthia Lasner as a smart and sassy Hermia doing a superb job kicking off the play with very difficult poetry in the opening scene. She is paired with a handsome, well-spoken Lysander in Josiah Rowe.

The prime scene-stealer among the mortals is Lauren Kirby, who sparkles as the wonderful Helena whether rejected by her beloved in Act I or as the object of everyone's lust once the fairy dust gets sprinkled. Her Springerized spitting match with Hermia ("Thou painted maypole!") is hilarious. Talk about a melding of poetry and character.

The fairies don't disappoint either. Kevin Wallace imparts more than a hint of delightful sleaze to his Oberon, while Kathleen Ruttum is both imperious and maybe a little vulnerable as Titania, his Queen.

We get a downright manic Puck from Michael Smith, who is all over the stage with slapstick antics that never obscure his lines or his character. Over the top, maybe, but wonderful to watch and not really out of balance.

Peter Kaiser got screams of laughter as Bottom the Weaver. Whether doing his best to scarf up all the roles in the "Pyramus and Thisbe" play, or making a fool of himself as Titania's beloved, he had the audience in the palm of his hand.

All the featured performers make a favorable impression. We could use more volume from some of the secondary players, especially from the young fairies singing the lullaby. Angela Linhardt's original score deserved more than the Kmart sound system Summer Garden rustled up for the occasion.

I loved seeing the junior members of the cast employed so effectively by directors Carol Youmans and Jim Gallagher. With young actors, as with all of us, "the forms of things unknown, the poet's pen turns them to shapes."

The Annapolis Summer Garden Theatre's production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" plays Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at 8: 30 p.m. through Aug. 1.

Information: 410-268-9212.

Pub Date: 7/16/98

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