The IU Theatre’s production of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" is a triumph that will long be remembered by those who have and those who are yet to see it. Director Murray McGibbon has dipped deeply into the resources of a variety of theatrical traditions for a production solidly based on and rising from the great text.
After the success of the recent movie, I’ll bet that you’re wondering how the stage production compares. If it will help, here are some thoughts. The film’s King Oberon, Rupert Everett, is undeniably handsome. But Everett doesn’t get the chance to smoothly switch between playing both the fairy King Oberon and the Duke of Athens as does IU’s Blake Bowen. In like manner we can’t really compare IU’s Emily Hoover with the film’s Michelle Pfieffer because Pfieffer only plays Queen Titania. Hoover, in quite different characterizations, gives us both the Queen of the Fairies and the Queen of the Amazons. I’m sorry that I can’t remember who plays the thwarted young lover Helena in the movie, but IU’s Nicole Parker does a wonderful job and I’m sure that I’ll remember her. Now we come to the artisans, the "rude mechanicals" and their tragical comedy of Pyramus and Thisbe. Many who saw the recent film of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" thought that Kevin Kline as Bottom was reason enough to pay for a ticket. Kline is a fine and imaginative actor, but the group of artisans in the film never seemed to fit as comfortably together as does the IU crew. And IU’s Bottom, Jason Ruben Marr, was just such a treat, both while alive or dying and dying and dying, that I’d be willing to either give IU the edge or call it a draw.
The varied and yet coherent costuming for IU’s "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" was by Sarah Conyers-Conte. The costuming for the Duke, the King and the Queens were nicely flowing with the fairy folk a bit fanciful and the courtly folk a bit more businesslike. The fairy attendants of Queen Titania were all colorful Carnaby Street. The attendants of fairy King Oberon were punked out bikers. The dress of the rude mechanicals was varied and patched, but here too the appearances all fit together. Conyers Conte found a nice mix between modern and some period for both the young men and women of Athens as well. I especially enjoyed the sort of misbegotten Little-Lord Fauntleroy effect she achieved in the dress of the Puck.
The IU Theatre production of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" directed by Murray McGibbon is a solid reality built with great skill. It’s a chance to see a good cast with some real outstanding talents that has been brought to a fine level of theatrical accomplishment. It’s a good chance to lose yourself in an evening at the theatre and it’s a fine time to laugh, quite a bit.
The IU Theatre production of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" plays each evening through Saturday.