“Midsummer” Gets Odd But Effective Treatment At St. Louis Shakespeare

Cole Rommel, Josh Rowland and Paul Edwards as the Mechanicals in St. Louis Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Photo credit: Kim Carlson.

Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” makes another appearance at the Grandel Square Theatre- this time with St. Louis Shakespeare offering their take on the comedy. The Black Rep did the play back in February. This one is different and, despite some odd choices here and there, works just as well. One thing both productions have in common is a jumping, jiving curtain call.

Eric Peters opens the play as Theseus dressed in military khakis. Perhaps World War I? But there’s no mention of the time frame although several other characters wear garb from that period. Actually, the costumes of Wes Jenkins are very effective- especially the fairy costumes and those of the mechanicals. Mr. Peters and Jamie Chandler as his Hippolyta are good but we lose a lot of the opening dialogue due, in part perhaps, because of the always poor acoustics in the Grandel. Actors really have to project in this space and Shakespeare is particularly difficult at times because of the speech patterns of his plays.

Shane Bosillo is a bit too hyper as Egeus while Beth Wickenhauser, at times, matches him with some irritating whining as Hermia. Other than the opening scene, however, she really takes command of the role. Daniel Hayward is effective as her lover, Lysander while Laura Enstall and Jimmy Krawczyk also handle the other lovers- Helena and Demetrius- with style and panache. Michael Juncal truly takes control of the stage as Oberon. His voice and powerful demeanor command respect.

Njemile Ambonisye as Titania and Michael Juncal as Oberon in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at St. Louis Shakespeare. Photo credit: Kim Carlson.

Joshua Nash Payne is simply delightful as Puck. He, along with several other cast members, take a bit of latitude with Shakespeare and interject a few anachronistic comments from time to time with highly pleasing results. Njemile Ambonisye is properly seductive as Titania and the quartet of fairies attending her and Oberon are superb- each with their own identity and personal quirks. Paul Edwards plays the perfect Bottom and, with his tall, lanky frame, wins us over both with and without his donkey persona. In fact, the merry band of mechanicals also stand out- each with their own personalities.

Director Donna Northcott has put a quality product on the stage with plenty of laughs and outlandish characters. The Michael Dombek set design utilizes the basic set design St. Louis Shakespeare has used all season (similar to the seven years of Opera Theatre and their infamous brick wall backdrop). But here, the set works beautifully for all the plays with multiple levels, a colorful cyclorama and generic columns that work for just about any Shakespeare performance. In fact, the technical crew once again shines for “Midsummer.”

One doesn’t mind two productions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in one year- especially when they’re as diverse as these two have turned out to be. Catch it while you can, though, because it only runs through October 7th. Contact St. Louis Shakespeare Company at 314-361-5664 or at info@stlshakespeare.org for tickets or more information.

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