A Midsummer Night’s Dream Shines on the Agecroft Stage
Read More: a midsummer night's dream, Agecroft Hall, Anne Carr Regan, Audra Honaker, Charley Raintree, Dixon Cashwell, Henley Street Theatre, John Moon, LaSean Greene, Melissa Johnston Price, Raven Lorraine Wilkes, Richard Moxley, Richmond Shakespeare, Richmond Shakespeare Festival, rva theater, Virginia McConnell
William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is one of his most widely produced comedies. The dynamic plot features elements of the supernatural, true and unrequited love, exciting fights and a play within a play which is so awful it’s hilarious.
As the opener to Richmond Shakespeare Festival this year at Agecroft Hall, presented by Henley Street Theatre and Richmond Shakespeare, there are some definite highs and lows to this production.
Director Jan Powell sets the play in America in 1905. Just after the Spanish-American War and Duke Thesus, a former war hero played by John Moon, and his fiancé Hippolyta, a wealthy Spanish widow played by Melissa Johnston Price, are overseeing the proposal of Egeus, played by Anne Carr Regan. Hermia, Egeus’s daughter played by Audra Honaker, is to enter into an arranged marriage to Demetrius, played by Dixon Cashwell. Hermia does not wish to marry Demetrius as she is already in love with another man named Lysander, played by Charley Raintree.
Helena, a member of Thesus’s court played by Maggie Roop, is desperately in love with Demetrius and is devastated that his affections have turned towards Hermia. Hermia is forbidden from marrying Lysander and the two defiantly decide to elope and escape into the forest. The two lovers are followed by Demetrius, who wishes to stop the couple’s elopement, and Helena, who wants to stop Demetrius from chasing Hermia.
Meanwhile in Fairy Kingdom, Fairy King Oberon and his Queen Titania, also played by Moon and Johnston Price, are having a disagreement. In order to get back at his wife, he employs his fairy servant Puck, played by Raven Lorraine Wilkes, to cast a spell on Titania while she is sleeping. Causing the Queen to fall in love with the first person, or possibly animal, she sees when she awakes. As Demetrius and Helena approach Oberon in the forest, he decides to have a bit of fun with them as well and instructs Puck to cast the same spell on Demetrius, who Puck mistakes for Lysander. Eventually, the four lovers affections are so mixed up, what follows are some hilariously directed fights scenes between them.
Throughout the story The Mechanicals, a local acting troupe, have been rehearsing a play they are to perform at Thesus’s wedding. Unfortunately, they too are toyed with by Oberon and Puck while rehearsing in the forest and are forced to perform their play with hardly any preparation resulting in by far the funniest part of this production.
I found the interaction of the four lovers fell a bit flat. Roop and Honaker give strong performances as Helena and Hermia however, their command of physical comedy far outshines their delivery of the dialogue. Johnston Price and Moon tackle their dual roles with ease. Their mannerisms, accents, and costume changes perfectly delineate between their roles.
One of the most memorable performances of the night was definitely that of Raven Lorraine Wilkes as Puck. Her maniacal cackling as she bounds around the stage as the mischievous fairy is chilling and exciting. Wilkes brings a refreshing burst of energy to every scene she’s in. But, I probably laughed the hardest at Mincks’ portrayal of the young Babylonian woman Thisbe, in The Mechanicals’ play. LaSean Greene is hilarious as the actor Snout, who plays the wall through which Pyramus and Thisbe whisper their affections.
Richard Moxley’s set is very minimal; as most sets on the Agecroft stage are. There is a beautiful installation of large tangled branches in the center of the stage creating the feeling of a large tree and enabling the fairies to climb freely around it. Virginia McConnell’s costumes are perfectly constructed and attractive, even though the setting of the play in 1905 never really gains much of a footing in this production.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is playing through July 6th at Agecroft Hall.
Visit www.henleystreettheatre.org for information about showtimes.
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.
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