There are many words I can use to describe Seattle Shakespeare Company's current production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream". But the one word that kept popping up so many times while watching it was "HOT!" This production is just plain hot as director Sheila Daniels has put together a fearless production that puts in all the love, lust and sex you could ask for while also throwing in a bit of a twist and still keeping Shakespeare's ethereal comedy true to itself and fun as hell.
I don't want to spend too much time on the story as there's so much to say about the production. But let's just say that there are two sets of star crossed lovers and a merry band of actors who spend a night wandering through a murky wood where they are tricked, seduced and just plain messed with by the fairies who inhabit the wood including the king and queen of the fairies, Titania and Oberon (Amy Thone and Reginald Andre Jackson). Oh and I should mention the little twist thrown in here that could have been a distraction but only added to the power and resonance of the show as one of the lovers, Lysander, is now Lysandra (Christine Marie Brown) which means that one of the couples is now Lesbian. Now, like I said it could have distracted but only managed to add an interesting layer to the betrayal of her father's wishes by Hermia (Allison Strickland) and even managed a jab at the issues of today as the couple said they would flee to the country where they could not be touched by Athenian law. But they didn't dwell on this plot device so neither will I.
The cast is nothing short of spectacular and a fine ensemble. Every single member of the cast had their moments, understood their intention and the text and knew how to convey it. Sounds like a no brainer I know but so many times Shakespearean companies can say the pretty words but can't really convey the meaning, assuming they understand it. And as wonderful as ALL of them are, I must point out a few who really shone. Let's start with Chris Ensweiler as the mischievous Puck who took the little imp and turned him into an almost feral beast as he skulled and snarled his way around the stage. And this raised the stakes on this chaotic creature to the point where he was no longer just a trickster but now a little dangerous; all the while keeping the humor of him intact. Trick Danneker as Demetrius took a brooding lover and made him into a puffed up poser with hilarious result. Riley Neldam took the minor role of Flute and ran with it as he turned his performance of Thisbe (in the play within the play) into comedic gold. I haven't seen much from Neldam before but I think we may all want to keep an eye on him.
And I have to comment on the two people who walked away with the show in their own ways. Terri Weagant turns in a singular performance as the dejected Helena and inhabits the part with as much truth, and genius comedic timing as I have ever seen. With a mere look or tilt of the head she had the audience all at once feeling sorry for the poor girl and still giggling uncontrollably. And I must say, Todd Jefferson Moore is the worst, most ridiculous actor on the planet ... and that's a compliment. His portrayal of the epitome of bad actors, Bottom, had the entire audience in tears from laughter but never took him over the top. Oh he danced on that line of mugging and hamming it up but like a skilled tightrope walker, never fell off it. A truly brilliant performance.
With a stunningly dark and creepy scenic design from Andrea Bush, glorious lights from Ben Zamora, gorgeously earthy costumes from Jennifer Zeyl, eerily beautiful sound design from Robertson Witmer and magnificent choreography and staging from Peter Dylan O'Connor and director Daniels this is close to being one of those all around perfect productions. Really just "hot" in every possible sense (OK, other than actual temperature). Last season I gushed and chided my friends over missing Seattle Shakes production of "Hamlet". I think I may have found the first must see for the season.