The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 8.1067. Thursday, 23 October 1997.
Date: Wednesday, 22 Oct 1997 10:22 -0500
Subject: Dream in Baltimore
Center Stage, in Baltimore, is doing Midsummer Night's Dream and Mom had
a free ticket and the Orioles have been eliminated from the series.
It's as if event conspired.
I know doubling has been discussed on this list before, but this was the
first time I had actually seen it used (that I recall). And now I can't
imagine doing Midsummer without it, primarily because of what it does
for Hippolyta, who was once a queen, but always came off as this
secondary character in the productions that I remember. What with only
five lines before Act 5, it is easy to forget she's in the play. But
the Baltimore production gives her a fair amount of business in the
first scene, allowing her to actively sympathize with Hermia and relate
Hermia's enforced marriage to her own. Hippolyta wears a long leather
gown, her Amazonian fashion a stark contrast with the Napoleonic-style
of the Athenias and when she reappears as Titiania, you feel it is that
Amazonian fighter spirit that keeps the changeling from Oberion. They
even give Hippolyta a gun in Act 5; in short, Hippolyta goes from being
a trophy wife to power figure.
They double Oberion and Theseus, Hippolyta and Titania, and, in a move
that seems so obvious, but had never occurred to me before, Puck and
Philostrate. Center Stage typically offers a casting quirk to all their
Shakespearean productions, and their choice for Puck is unique and
inspired; as a result, there is a grouchy element added to his
mischief. Mustardseed, Cobweb and Peaseblossom are played by three
young girls,(ages 11- 13) and they are some of the strongest members of
the cast, they can sing, act, and are the key element in giving
fairyland its fairy-like ambiance. The Baltimore set is a colorful
floral greenhouse motif, that becomes a playground gym set when the
lovers start running about. The lovers take a boisterous slapstick
approach to their confusion that surpasses the mechanicals physical
As a last note, the show had one of those spontaneous interactive
moments that caught me by surprise. Puck should be about to administer
the corrective herb to the eyes to the eyes of Lysander, but instead
leans towards Demetrius, prompting loud "no"s from the crowd. I'm
guessing that it was not a moment they planned on, but the cast now
seems to actively exploit. Just a clue as to how this production seems
to draw you in.