Written by John Watters, Barnstable Patriot
A royal treatment in Orleans
William Shakespeare was born 450 years ago next April, and to celebrate the Bard’s birthday Elements Theatre Company is kicking off a year-long presentation of his works. Starting the party early, they are staging a truly mystical and magical Midsummer’s Night Dream on their Paraclete House stage at Rock Harbor in Orleans.
The theater wing of the Community of Jesus’s Gloria Dei Artes Foundation, Elements Theatre’s repertory stage company always delivers top-notch productions of the works of playwrights A. R. Gurney, Dickens, Faust, Simon, Wilde, and the like. This is not their first staging of Shakespeare, but it could very well be their best.
Setting the stage in three-quarter round, the production is intimate and imaginative with the famed Fairies glen tucked into modern-day Central Park. With colorful streamers and Chinese lanterns descending from above, an ethereal otherworld is exquisitely conjured. Filling the beautiful costumes is a remarkably talented cast of actors who breathe articulate life into each line of Shakespeare’s poetic prose.
The play, written in the mid-1590s, is one of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies. The mid-night tale of Fairy King Oberon and his Queen Titiana’s struggling over a young boy evolves into a complex story of would-be relationships that may or may not come to fruition. As youthful lovers strain to find each other, they become entangled in the whimsical sorcery that must be untangled by dawn’s light.
Director Sr. Danielle Dwyer uses a deft hand to create a quickly moving montage of scenes. With a few simple set pieces carried on and off she never lets the play drag through scene changes. Her cast is well studied and sharply honed to present an impeccable Shakespearean piece.
Brad Lussier plays both the Athenian Duke Theseus and Oberon with a regal touch throughout. Not over-spilling emotion, he tries mightily to control the lives of the mortals and immortals in his sphere of influence.
Hippolyta and Titiana are played by Ellen Ortolani. As the soon to be Duke’s wife or the Queen of the spirit world, Ortolani shows a luminous gracefulness.
Kate Shannon is wonderful as Puck. With impish blunder she mixes up who she was supposed to spell and must work feverishly to undo her mistake.
Lindsey Kanaga, Sarah Hale, Kyle Norman and Jeremy Haig play the quartet of star-crossed lovers Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius perfectly.
Stealing the show’s laughs is Br. Stephen Velie, who in an overzealous attempt to play all the roles in a theater production to be presented at the Duke’s wedding literally makes an ass of himself as Bottom. His comical death scene had the audience rolling in the aisles.
Everyone from fanatics about the Bard to those uninitiated in his wonders couldn’t do better than catching this production.
Sweet, sweet dreams at Elements Theater Company.