First off, yesterday I forgot to mention that Jake Ashley brings a lovable sad-sack energy to his portrayal of Amos in “Chicago.” Kind of a critic’s meta-joke there…
Now, on to Midsummer… I was talking to someone last Friday and mentioning that I was going to a production of “Midsummer” and they kind of rolled their eyes. This led to a little discussion about how many times certain shows get produced and that this can mute the excitement for seeing them, at least among people who see a lot of theater.
But really, when I thought about it, the problem isn’t that they get produced so often; the raw material they are working from never stops being awesome. It’s just that it gets harder and harder to find something new, vital, or surprising in the show, something to give it that ‘zing!’ or that intriguing sense of discovery. When a production finds that doorway into something new and ushers you through it, the brilliance of the material shines anew, kind of like when you put a fresh coat of paint up in a dingy room.
This current production of Midsummer finds many wonderful, manic, entertaining aspects of the show to make it bright and engaging. And, as I mention in my review, profoundly silly; there are many times when the sublime shades well over into the ridiculous. I can imagine there are many people who will be put off by the silliness, who might bristle at the more obscene or just plain dumb parts. But oh, what delights are available if you give in to the madness.
There are some amazing organic bits of brilliance here. Some are tiny – Brandon Crowder adjusting his pants after a particularly um, intense interlude, for instance – others are huge (much of what Adam Mincks does as Bottom). And as good as those boys are, this isn’t a testosterone-dominated show. Stacie Rearden Hall is lusty and lively and just all sorts of good in her many roles. She’s one of those actors who seems to be totally invested in a show’s onstage relationships. She does an astounding job with the ups-and-downs of Helena’s journey. And of course, Kerry McGee was enchanting as well as game for extreme physical mayhem, including being turned upside down. Did you all do trust falls during rehearsal?
Sandra Clayton may get a bit of a short shrift here in terms of stage-time but she does a fine job when she has to, particularly as Peter Quince. Also, don’t think that I didn’t notice that everyone had their toenails painted – nice touch! And I didn’t get to mention the costumes in my review but they certainly enhance the action; one example: Bottom’s helmet with the plastic cutlery was a stitch.
If you’ve seen Midsummer before and are thinking ‘why do I need to see it again?’ I can answer that in three words: “Crowder as Thisbe.” I don’t want to ratchet anyone’s expectations up too high but, really, words don’t do it justice. Just go and laugh.