Contemporizing Shakespeare’s plays, abridging them, moving them to different locations, or having them center around different cultures: these are all fun ways to mold classical theatre into something new. But An Irish Twist on William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while certainly an original idea that intertwines the famous play with Irish lore and culture, is ultimately an awkward production.
In Quotidian Theatre’s version, the story still follows young characters who are blocked from being with their true loves. Aveline (Angela Kay Pirko) is in love with Lord Gregory (Grant Cloyd), with whom she’s had an affair, but he wants to marry Margaret. Margaret (Laura Rocklyn) is in a passionate relationship with her tutor, Liam O’Conor (Seth Rosenke), but their love is forbidden because her mother wants her to marry Lord Gregory for his wealth. The four youths run off into the woods where, unbeknownst to them, a quarrel between the Queen and King of the Faeries (played, respectively, by Laura Russell and Addison Switzer) is taking place.
Meanwhile, jolly household workers take to the woods to practice a play. Chaos ensues when the attendant to the King of the Faeries, Puck (Ian Blackwell Rogers) interferes with the lives of the humans and faeries in the woods.
For those familiar with the original Shakespeare play, it’s clear who the Irish counterpart of each character is. The plot of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is kept intact while the setting and most of the names are changed. For example, instead of ancient Athens, this rendition takes place in early, 19th century Tuam, Galway, Ireland.
And while the changes to the text are done well (The Bard’s meter still holds up with Irish references and names) the biggest issue with An Irish Twist is the Irish music and dancing. For the most part, they seem jammed in. When the fiddle plays over the Queen of the Faeries’ monologue, it’s distracting. When the Queen of the Faeries’ attendant is required to step dance in rhythm to her dialogue, it feels forced, and her lines are wheezed out with a lack of breath, rather than spoken clearly with, well, emotion. When characters stop what they’re doing to sing a few lines of a song, the transitions are jagged. That’s not to say that the play should not include extra singing or dancing, there are ways to delicately incorporate both. But the keyword is delicately.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
closes August 12, 2018
Details and tickets
Several eyebrow-raising choices tear away at the suspension of disbelief. In An Irish Twist, the faery servants are replaced with a chipmunk-sounding audio recording and a 2-d cutout of faeries dangling on a stick (a prop that’s more fitting for an SNL version of the play). And during the play-within-a-play section, the inclusion of a battery-powered, barking toy dog distracts from a character’s hilarious lines. There’s a fine line between props and sound effects adding to the comedy of a show and cheapening what is already funny dialogue.
One major positive: Ian Blackwell Rogers performance, the man steals the show with his charismatic portrayal of Puck. He effortlessly prances across the stage without chewing the scenery, and he embodies the trickster faery with a lively air. Rogers could perform an entertaining one-man-show as this character.
Plenty of research has gone into transporting Shakespeare’s play to Galway; it’s evident with the inclusion of Celtic Druids, Irish poetry, believable accents, step dancing, singing, and more. However, mixing A Midsummer Night’s Dream with the visuals and sounds of Ireland could have been done with more grace.
An Irish Twist on William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream Adapted and directed by Stephanie Mumford and Leah Mazade. Featuring Peter Brice, John Allnutt, Grant Cloyd, John Decker, David Dubov, Katherine Kemp, Madie Kilner, Leah Mazade, Julie Olsen, Angela Kay Pirko, Laura Rocklyn, Ian Blackwell Rogers, Seth Rosenke, Laura Russell, Samantha Suplee, and Addison Switzer. Stage manager: E. Lynda Bruce. Dramaturg: Leah Mazade and Peter Brice. Musical Director/Composer/Irish Additions to Script: Peter Brice. Choreographers: Kate Bole and Vanessa Bisbee. Set design by: Stephanie Mumford and Patrick McGovern. Set construction by: Patrick McGovern, Nancy Davis, John Decker, Tarm Kelsey, and Jack Sbarbori. Lighting design by: Don Slater. Sound design/light and sound technician: Matthew Datcher. Costume design: Stephanie Mumford and Clare Parker. Presented by Quotidian Theatre Company. Reviewed by Emily Priborkin.