A Dream Production of Bard's `Midsummer'
Pressley, Nelson, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
"A Midsummer Night's Dream" remains one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies because it is so lean, so pretty and so happy. But it's almost always a disappointment on the stage. Actors trip over themselves trying to be funny, and directors outsmart themselves trying to find bright ways to bring the fairy scenes and romantic confusion to life.
So it's a particular delight to witness the easy magic of director Adrian Noble's staging of this comedy for the Royal Shakespeare Company, which is making the Kennedy Center one of only four stops on its American tour. The show looks like a Technicolor dream, it's acted with surprising athleticism, and - hardest of all to achieve - it's deliciously funny.
That is due, as often as not, to the terrifically physical acting, especially among the four star-crossed lovers. Emily Raymond's sad-faced, gangly Helena chases Kevin Robert Doyle's Demetrius (who loves Hermia, not Helena) like a spaniel, even forlornly raising a paw his way in hope of a shake. Demetrius's groggy "Here therefore awhile will I remain" gets a , unlikely laugh because he's just been knocked flat by a vicious head butt from Monica Dolan's Hermia.
Barry Kyle's Puck is lightning quick and has a light sneer that is mirrored by his amusingly smug turn as Philostrate, Theseus's right-hand man. Alex Jennings doubles as Theseus, Duke of Athens, and Oberon, King of the Fairies; with his miniature version of Bride of Frankenstein hair and his gorgeous, imperial voice, he's a magnetic, slightly goofy otherworldly ruler.
Lindsay Duncan is his opposite number, doubling as Hippolyta (betrothed to Theseus) and Titania (the Fairy Queen). Miss Duncan looks utterly love-drunk in a hot pink floor-length nightgown out of Mae West's closet, and she's a great sexy foil for Desmond Barrit's baleful donkey deadpans as Bottom, the weaver transformed into an ass that Titania falls in love with. …