A Midsummer Night's Dream
Published: Monday, April 30, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
One of Shakespeare’s most renowned and beloved romantic comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, has been performed time and time again, generally utilizing the same old settings, scenes, and costumes. Never has it been performed, however, to include glittering saris, lively dance numbers, and Indian drum beats. In this unexpected yet brilliant blend of concepts, Shakespeare meets Bollywood. The Boston College Theater Department cleverly traded Athens for Bombay and set this unique, colorful production against the backdrop of a dreamlike India under British Victorian rule in 1858.
Midsummer features three closely intertwined plots that all eventually come together in the end through a grand wedding. The play begins by describing the complicated romantic relationships of four lovers. When Hermia (Shannon DeBari, LSOE ’13) refuses to marry Demetrius (Tim Kopacz, A&S ’13), her father, Lord Eugeus (Steven Kreager, A&S ’12), appeals to Theseus (Joe Meade, A&S ’15) for his support. Rather than Demetrius, Hermia is in love with Lysander (Evan Murphy, A&S ’12), and despite the consequences, the two decide to run off together and marry outside of the city. Things are further complicated by the presence of Helena (Sarah Winglass, A&S ’14)—although she is enamored with Demetrius, he does not love her in return. Eventually, these two follow Hermia and Lysander into the woods as well.
Also in these enchanted woods is a group of magical fairies, led by Oberon (Nate Richman, CSOM ’13) and Titania (Emily Banks, A&S ‘12). They argue over the ownership of a young boy, and in an attempt to gain revenge, Oberon sends his servant Puck (Zack Desmond, A&S ’12) to obtain a magical flower that will make Titania fall in love with the first living thing that she sees when she awakes. Oberon happens to see indifferent Demetrius and desperate, love-struck Helena in the forest, and feeling compassionate, he instructs Puck to use the flower on Demetrius too. In the events that ensue, the silly, clumsy Puck mistakenly uses the magic on the wrong people, and the rest of the play explains the comedic antics that result from his small, yet significant, error.
The third plot in Midsummer concerns a troupe of amusing, makeshift actors who are rehearsing a play in hopes of performing it for Theuseus’ wedding. Bottom (Cam Cronin, A&S ’12) is one of these actors—dramatic and hysterically flamboyant, Bottom is transformed into an ass by Puck, and when Titania, the fairy queen, awakes, she magically falls in love with him. Because of Puck, everyone seems to be foolishly enchanted by the incorrect person, and it isn’t until a few laughable catfights and swordfights later that everything is amended.
Because Midsummer’s plot is incredibly intricate and interlaced, opportunities for subtle comedic scenes abound. In BC’s production, the cast clearly took advantage of such occasions in the storyline, and each actor demonstrated his own unique talents in bringing something special to his character. Winglass, for example, played Helena, with her ridiculous, quirky, and eccentric behaviors, with immense perfection. Her actions and expressions were free and natural, adding to her character’s authenticity. Similarly, Cronin exhibited the exuberant dramatics of Bottom like the dynamic diva his character really was. After all, it takes true talent to “fake die” as passionately and theatrically as he did.
Also worth noting was the show’s vivid set and lights. The entire performance took place before a single backdrop—a brightly illuminated cutout that looked something like Aladdin’s dome shaped palace in Agrabah. The lights casted elegant, royal patterns and designs on the set throughout the show and illuminated the stage with vibrant colors that were reminiscent of the rich culture and life of India.
Like the lights, the costumes were dazzling, adding to the overall ethnic theme of the production. Glitter, sparkles, and shining gems adorned the various colored saris and traditional outfits of the characters. The female fairies shimmered with their lovely wings, and the male characters, with nothing but baggy pants and inked tattoos, commanded all visual attention. Puck’s character, painted completely in dark blue, added another dimension of color to Midsummer.
This Shakespeare adaption could not have rightly deemed itself Bollywood if it did not include at least several impromptu dance routines, and fortunately, it actually did feature an exceptional blend of classical and contemporary Indian choreography. Moreover, for curtain call, all of the actors came on stage for an enormous number that even got the audience to clap along.
Ultimately, Shakespeare and Bollywood worked quite well together. Though distinctly different, the two facets of the production complemented each other to create a mesmerizing, charming atmosphere for Midsummer. Through this atmosphere, director Luke Jorgensen says that we can learn that “true romantic impulses come from nature. There are plenty of creatures out there more powerful than us, and anything worth having is worth fighting for.” n