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‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ review: Open air

midsummer_02‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ review: Open air

Publication: Newsday
By Steve Parks
August 8, 2012

Its title alone qualifies “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as a Bard-in-the-park standard. So it’s hardly surprising that the Hamptons Independent Theatre Festival should make
“Dream” its premiere Shakespeare production.

Among Will’s comedies, this romp is one of the few that — except for its play within the play –does not revolve around mistaken gender identity. But director Joshua Perl crosses genders by casting Kathryn Lerner and Kasia Klimiuk, respectively, as Lysander and Demetrius. The gentlemen woo the same diminutive blonde, Hermia (aptly cast Licia James Zegar), while hapless Helena, played with comic acuity by Kea Trevett, longs for Demetrius.

Meanwhile, a motley crew of amateur thespians gather to rehearse an entertainment for visiting Athenian nobility. Led by hammy Nick Bottom, played with delectably broad joie de vivre by Maddie Casto, they select “Pyramus and Thisbe,” a tragicomic send-up of “Romeo and Juliet.”

Oberon, king of the faeries, played with authoritarian clout by Gerard Doyle, deploys Puck, a nimble Ashley Brooke, to apply a love potion that will smooth the course of romance. But Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius and both now pursue Helena while spurning Hermia. Worse, Oberon’s queen, Titania, a regal Clodagh Bowyer, awakens to find herself smitten by a man disguised as an ass — the well-named Bottom.

Will love’s true course find its path? Does the show go on? Methinks you gentle readers know the outcome. But allow me to observe:

* On opening night, the “Dream” team gained confidence after a shaky, under-projected start.
* Although Lerner mastered male mannerisms more convincingly than Klimiuk, casting women as Lysander and Demetrius seems more distraction than innovation.
* Except for the full moon, which emerged in Act II, lighting issues dimmed the cheery sail-like set (Peter-Tolin Baker).

But a rollicking performance of “Pyramus and Thisbe,” keyed by the hilarious cross-dressing Casto and Michael Iannuzzi — with “her” hirsute midriff — filled the night air with laughter.