The student weekly of St. Olaf College
Manitou Messenger: 'Midsummer' stuns Guthrie audience

'Midsummer' stuns Guthrie audience

By Natalie Neal
Contributing Writer
Friday, May 9, 2008

Sex. Drama. Rock 'n' roll. I'm talking about the newest adaptation of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" now playing at the Guthrie. After a landmark production of "Midsummer" in 1997, director Joe Dowling has once again brought this Shakespearean classic infused with pop-culture electricity to the stage.

Although this is Dowling's eighth time directing "Midsummer," this production is quite different from previous performances. For one thing, 13 of the 20 cast members graduated from two of the finest actor training programs established by Dowling, known as the University of Minnesota Guthrie Theater B.F.A Actor Training Program and A Guthrie Experience for Actors.

"In the last 10 years, we have developed a large number of really wonderful actors in our BFA and Guthrie Experience programs," Dowling said. "'Midsummer' is the ideal play for young people, both for those who are performing it and those who are coming to see it."

In "Midsummer," Shakespeare creates four separate groups of characters that collide in an enchanted, moonlit forest. On the shortest night of the year, the air is saturated with spring fever, love and romance.

The group of four lovers runs away but becomes lost in a dreamy forest inhabited by edgy, sensual and mischievous fairies ruled by Titania and Oberon. A powerful love potion is dispensed on the lovers rather carelessly by the pixie Puck, and leads to mistaken identities and unusual romantic pairings.

The fickle nature of shifting affections is comically portrayed, yet still comments that passion in foolish excess can be horribly painful and cruel at times. As is the comic style, all's well that ends well, and the mishaps result in three marriages. During "Midsummer," a band of amateur actors puts on a most pathetic and side-splitting play, in honor of a duke's marriage. Dowling decided to play on contemporary, local stereotypes such as a Minnesota woman decked out in '80s warm-up attire, a dull witted middle-aged man stuck in his college days and an Asian nerd constantly playing Nintendo for the play in the play.

Captivating elements of the production include the elaborate, sexy costume design of the fairies, as well as the gravity-defying aerial sequences combined with original rock music.

The "Cirque-de-Soleil"-esque spectacle may seem a little over-the-top at times. Local theater critic Rohan Preston said, "It is very amusing, even if its spare-nothing richness can be likened to having seven courses of dessert."

The eclectic combination of doo-wop, Irish step dancing, Greek mythology, Russian uniforms, Las Vegas rock glam, '50s undergarments and a lush jungle ambiance created on the Wurtele Thrust Stage enthralls the audience and inspires the imagination.

The production runs through June 22. To learn more or purchase tickets, visit

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