Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Director Victor Malana Maog has streamlined Shakespeare's play to a swiftly moving 90 minutes without intermission. Fourteen talented and seemingly inexhaustible actors present the three overlapping plot lines on a stage area designed by Jim Hunter, with production design by Tony Cisek: an extended forecourt, the façade of a mansion, a few columns behind it and wooden staircases to either side, and a sunburst chandelier hovering above. (Lighting designer Yael Lubetzky paints each scene with light in vivid colors, by turns atmospheric washes and pinpoint spots.) The audience sits on three sides of the stage.
As entertaining as the mismatched central love story is to watch and hear–and as accomplished as the entire cast is–the play depends on the actors playing Puck and Bottom to energize the proceedings. Danaya Esperanza plays Puck almost as an incarnate beam of light, glittering in Olivera Gajic's sequined black bodysuit as she seems to float above the stage floor and powers the interactions of the other characters. When Jacob Ming-Trent is onstage, no one is likely to look elsewhere. He's a solidly built man who spends most of the play in a bright print shirt and matching shorts; the way he postures, breaks into impromptu song, and riffs on Shakespeare's lines, this Bottom really might be able to perform "Pyramus and Thisbe" without any assistance, as he wants to. And that's even before Puck shows up to change the way he sees things.
Rotimi Agbabiaka and Nubia M. Monks double as the earthly rulers Theseus and Hippolyta and their counterparts in the fairy world, Oberon and Titania. Gajic has created her most fantastical efforts for the members of this world, with bare-chested Oberon wearing a fuchsia ball skirt and platform shoes and Titania in a sleek gold dress with a long, long, long train, surrounded by fairies (played by members of the "rude mechanicals") in puffy nightgowns and crowns of flowering plants.
The Folger Theatre created this staging through a partnership with the University of South Carolina dating back more than 35 years. Hunter worked with the theater company, the building museum, and the university to draw from staging traditions dating back to Shakespeare's time and placing them in a contemporary context.
In conjunction with this production, the National Building Museum is joining the Folger Shakespeare Library in hosting additional free events including lunchtime readings, musical performances, tours, workshops, and family-friendly games and activities.
The Folger Theatre's A Midsummer Night's Dream runs through August 28, 2022, in the Great Hall of the National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW, Washington DC. For tickets and information, call 202-544-7077 or visit www.folger.edu/theatre.
By William Shakespeare