They have the moves! They have doo-wop down! Their BIG hairdos would also work in a remount of Hair, The Musical…
Meet the fairies—who strut their stuff with great style (Choreography: Joe Chvala; Wig & Make-Up Designer Richard Jarvie). They are holding court for Titania, Queen of the Fairies (Alexandra Silber) in the forest where Oberon, King of the Fairies (Edward O’Blenis) reigns – and these disco dancing fairies are just one set of minor characters that just about steal the show in Director Joe Dowling’s fun oozing interpretation of Shakespeare’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM now being staged at Chicago Shakespeare Theater at Navy Pier.
You too may relish that plum bon mot and most famous of famous lines from this script-- “What fools these mortals be!”. You too may look forward to being delighted by Shakespeare’s tale of Gods’ magic manipulating mortals, and the play within the play that is so often a Shakespeare trademark. Expect even more--- Dowling’s directorial magic, creative team and the talented cast and ensemble of this production, will likely, in this writer’s view, ably ratchet up your delight at every turn.
Underneath a canopy of super-sized forest flora that the program notes liken to a Hieronymus Bosch work (Set Designer: Todd Rosenthal)— but struck this writer to be more like a field of Little Shop of Horror flowers-with-personality—Oberon and his sprite agent Puck (Sam Kebede) flick their wrists as trills fill the air (Sound Designer: Christopher M. LaPorte) to cast spells, scatter fairy dust cocktails, and induce deep sleeps and dreams with waves of their hands. When the fairies first strut their stuff dancing across the stage in the opening it was a startle; by play’s end we had come to take this talent for granted. When the finale disco ball bathes us in colored lights i t reminds us of magic in the air. Truth to tell, in short order Dowling’s vision had so acclimated us to these magical touches that we were not properly keeping it in focus.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater Brings In Top Tier Talent
Most of all, it’s Dowling’s way of moving the so-called minor characters to the foreground, and making them the bigger part of the show, that is the big wow of this production, in this writer’s view. It’s not unlike shifting perception and seeing that classic picture of a goblet as two face profiles for the first time, or vice versa.
As they make their entrance singing “There’s No Business Like Show Business”, the powerhouse talents that are “the mechanicals” seem to announce “Hey, we have arrived to steal the show!” And they deliver on this promise every time they hit the stage! Don’t be mistaken, the leads, in this writer’s view, deliver fine performances, and especially Cristina Panfilio’s attitude-oozing Helena, Tyrone Philips’ imagining of Lysander as simultaneously regal and lovesick puppy both, and the enchanting performance by Alexandra Silber whose soprano seems right-sized for the Lyric. But when the mechanicals do their thing, you will find yourself in perpetual titter. Whether he’s self-absorbed Nick Bottom the showman, or the fat-ass ass whom Titania is fooled to love, or playing Pyramus in the play within a play and especially (SPOILER ALERT!) doing an over-the-top dying scene with antics of an opera-diva-harpo-marx-three-stooges meld that you know you will relish for the rest of your days—T.R. Knight is a total hoot. Whether it’s ringleader/director Peter Quince (Joe Dempsey) blowing his whistle from off-stage, or Snug (William Dick) practicing his lion roar when told to “rehearse”, or Robin Starveling (Sara Sevigny) giving a cartoonish pout as her doggie gets mushed and more—this is silliness unleashed and totally delicious.
Note: This is now added to the Picture this Post round up of BEST PLAYS IN CHICAGO, where it will remain until the end of the run. Click here to read — Top Picks for Theater in Chicago NOW – Chicago Plays PICTURE THIS POST Loves.
Jonathan Butler-Duplessis Snout
Joe Dempsey Peter Quince
Ethan Deppe Ensemble
William Dick Egeus/Snug
Michael Ferraro Peaseblossom
Luke Halpern Moth
Sam Kebede Puck/Philostrate
T.R. Knight Nick Bottom
Andrew MacNaughton Mustardseed
Edward O'Blenis Theseus/Oberon
Tyrone Phillips Lysander
Cristina Panfilio Helena
Melisa Soledad Pereyra Hermia
Michael Rawls Cobweb
Eric Schabla Demetrius
Sara Sevigny Starveling
Alexandra Silber Titania/Hippolyta
Alec Silver Francis Flute
Adrienne Storrs First Fairy
Jarais Musgrove Ensemble Intern
KJ Sheldon Ensemble Intern
Lauren Smith Ensemble Intern
Joe Dowling Director
Todd Rosenthal Scenic Designer
Fabio Toblini Costume Designer
Greg Hofmann Lighting Designer
Jesse Klug Lighting Designer
Keith Thomas Composer and Music Director
Christopher M. LaPorte Sound Designer
Richard Jarvie Wig and Make-up Designer
Joe Chvala Choreographer
Kevin Gudahl Verse Coach
Bob Mason Casting
Patricia McCorkle, CSA New York Casting
Erin Kraft Assistant Director
Thru January 27, 2019
Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier
800 East Grand Avenue
Photos: Liz Lauren
About the Author: Amy Munice
Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.
Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.