“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a Shakespeare comedy frequently adapted and performed by numerous acting companies since its origin in the late sixteenth century. Its popularity stands the test of time, incorporating the themes of love, mischief and enchantment and the unique element of showing a play within a play. The story follows four Athenian couples who are stuck in a complicated love situation and are manipulated by a fairy named Puck, the servant of the fairy king Oberon, who aims to trick the fairy queen, Titania. There is great difficulty in reproducing such an established play, but the cast and crew of UNCG’s production shine through with its unique twists and modern additions.
Mya Brown, the show’s director, gave an interview for YesWeekly saying that they wanted to give the show a unique twist by “infusing it with Japanese-anime type aesthetic, Yoruban God aesthetic, and contemporary L.A.” This is a perfect way to reflect UNCG’s creativity and diversity in time for UNCG School of Theatre’s Centennial Celebration.
The show ran Sept. 30–Oct. 2 and Oct. 12–15, in the UNCG Taylor Theatre. A talented cast of theater students collaborated to successfully translate Shakespeare’s play into a modern comedy without stripping away its timeless influence and charm. All the actors performed marvelously, and most portrayals shone brightly on the mystic set.
Performances by Allison Ringberg (Helena) and Grace Howell (Hermia) were passionate, conveying the myriad of emotions the characters experience in the play, from melodrama to humor. The performances of Xavier Henry (Lysander) and Jack Muzyczka (Demetrius) provoked numerous laughs from the audience. Their bantering and quarreling were portrayed whole-heartedly, strongly representing Shakespeare’s comedic genius.
Emily Ann Wright’s charming performance as the mischievous fairy, Puck, was the heart of the show. Her amusing monologues were beguilingly vocalized, and expressive gestures brought vitality to the stage. India Jones (Titania) and Ethan Guillaume (Oberon)’s alluring teamwork captivated the audience. Both Jones and Guillaume commanded the stage with confidence in their Yoruban-inspired costumes and makeup, causing them to stand out among their other cast members.
Calvin Rubes played the humorous role of Nick Bottom with ease; his tendency towards vaudeville performance solidified the power of Bottom’s character. The audience broke out into intense laughter during each of Nick Bottom’s scenes, especially after Puck’s spell, where his transformation into a donkey provoked hysterics.
The musical score adopted a modern style while still fostering the traditionalism of Shakespeare’s play. At first listen, the instrumental melody livened up the stage with the sharp strums of violins and sonorous flutes, but with more consideration a unique twist can be heard. Instead of the usual classical overture, this production incorporated modern songs that transformed the tone of the play. It personalized UNCG’s addition to the numerous renditions of Shakespeare’s classics.
The stereotypical view on collegiate theater performances does not apply to this Fall 2022 Production. Some may say that it’s easy to be in a play because you just have to sing and dance, but this cast proves it to be so much more. I could tell from the performances that the actors put in a lot of prep work and research to make their characters come alive and be distinct to their version. Without it, the performance would have fallen flat and would have lacked its palpable vitality. This play and other ones like it are proof that, despite harmful stereotypes, college productions are just as powerful as major theater companies.
The UNCG School of Theatre’s Fall 2022 production is a worthy testament to Shakespeare’s comedy. It is simply not enough for contemporary theaters to display an exact recreation to keep Shakespeare’s magic alive. Creative renditions that adapt to current times allow the play to remain relevant in modern society. This production succeeds in establishing its place in Shakespeare’s world.