Wineke Review: APT’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is modern dress success

Wineke Review: APT’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is modern dress success
Liz Lauren

Take one of William Shakespeare’s 1595 play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” dress the actors in modern garb, add in some fairies, replace lute music with drums and you end up with either a hit or a disaster.

Either way, it takes some courage to even try. Fortunately for American Players Theatre, the ambitious attempt is wildly and amazingly funny.

Like many Shakespearean comedies, the plot of Midsummer is complicated. In fact, there are four plots and those four are only loosely connected.

The story begins in ancient Athens, as Duke Theseus (Jonathan Smoots) weds Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons (Laura Rook). But along comes a rich guy named Egeus (Chike Johnson), who wants the duke to force his daughter Hermia (Melisa Pereyra) to marry Demetrius (Nate Burger) rather than her beloved Lysander (Juan Rivera Lebron).

For those of you who aren’t APT regulars, I’m sorry about all those parenthetical names but those people who are regulars consider the actors personal friends.

At any rate, that’s the gist of one plot.

Enter an acting troop, made up of English working men (and Tracy Michelle Arnold, who plays the role of Peter Quince) setting up to put on a play for the wedding. One of them is Bottom, a weaver played by John Pribyl, who will later be transformed into an ass, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

We’re getting ahead of ourselves because, first, Hermia and Lysander sneak off into the forest to escape Egeus. They are followed by Demetrius and Helena (Elizabeth Reese), but they run into the fairies, especially into Puck (Cristina Panfilio), a servant of the fairy king Oberon (Gavin Lawrence).

It is already too late to make a long story short, but Oberon has Puck sprinkle fairy dust on Hermia and Demestrius and they fall in love with the wrong people and she also sprinkles fairy dust on Queen Titania (Colleen Madden), who falls in love with Bottom, who has been transformed into an ass.

Got that? Of course you don’t have that. I’ve seen the play numerous times over the decades and I still have trouble figuring out what’s going on.

But it is funny. It is hilariously funny.

Panfilio steals the show. She is one of the handful of APT actors who always steals the show simply because of incredible talent.

The costumes also steal the show. They are a gift of Robert and Cindy Zellers and the show needs quite a few of them because, unlike the costumes in most Midsummer productions I have seen, these appear to become increasingly torn and muddy as the actors frolic through the supposed forest.

In the end, all’s well that ends well (sorry about that). The right people marry the right people. The troopers put on their play. Bottom is transformed back to a human, one who has had a wonderful midsummer night’s dream, and the audience leaves satisfied. What more can you ask?