July 1st, 2013
I was super excited for the Virginia Shakespeare Festival 2013 lineup. Of course, I’m usually excited when VSF comes to town, as they always put on interesting productions and have a refreshing take on Shakespeare. This year their productions are Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard III, and Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw.
My mom and I went to Midsummer Night’s Dream first. We had just seen the play performed at Thomas Nelson and very much enjoyed their production. She asked me why we were seeing the same play again, less than 2 months later, but I assured her that this was going to be a completely different show. And I was right. The setting was modern day America, as opposed to the traditional Athenian backdrop that the script uses.
There were some strange decisions made. For example, Hippolyta and Theseus were Oberon and Titania. I thought this was a different take on the story. I had never heard of that before, but it seemed to work as those characters were never present at the same time on stage. Meanwhile, Puck was Philostrate. However, Puck, Oberon, Titania and their alter egos were all vampires. The “fairies” were all vampires as well and were far nastier and crueler than I’ve seen the fairies ever played.
The production used modern music and objects in the play as well. DJ Puck plays Ke$ha’s “We R Who We R” as he introduced the fairies in a sort of vampire rave, Lysander and Hermia drove into the Athenian woods in a large prop piece dressed as a jeep, which played Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” while they drove along. Demetrius rode a bike into the woods to follow Hermia and Lysander, but was tailed closely by a desperate Helena.
The altercation when all four young Athenians meet and both Lysander and Demetrius are in love with Helena was particularly memorable. What happens is a hilarious physical comedy scene between the two young men as well as between Hermia and her former beau, Lysander. The actress playing Hermia was so petite that both young men were able to lift her and carry her, which was utilized in a complicated struggle to keep Lysander from fighting Demetrius for Helena’s favor.
The play within the play, the merry and tragical tale of Thisbe and Pyramus, was excellently overdone. Bottom’s death scene was hilarious and long drawn out. Thisbe was dressed in terrible drag with a yarn wig that tied under her chin. The best part was undoubtedly where the stage directions read “a dance”. They danced alright. To The Trammp’s “Disco Inferno”. I can quite confidently say that I doubt I will ever see the entire cast of a Shakespeare play dancing to “Disco Inferno” during the course of a production. But it was quite magical.
The play concluded a bit strangely with another silent scene about Oberon and Titania’s vampirism. While I’m quite fond of fairies with wings and flowing costumes, adding on the idea of vampirism was an interesting twist. I can’t say I was totally on board with it, but it was different and rather intriguing. All in all, it was an excellent show. I can’t wait for Richard III!