Review of A Cajun Midsummer Night’s Dream
By William Shakespeare, adapted by Clay David
Directed by Clay David
For tickets / schedule :
NTC Playhouse, Novato, CA
Novato Theater Company
RUN: January 29-February 21 2016
RATING: 4 of 5 stars
(January 29, 2016)
An imaginative restaging of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this production is rooted in the dripping warmth and mystery of Bayou swamps. Watery lighting design from Courtney Johnson and moss festooned sets spawn moonlit Voodoo nights filled with Delphic creatures. Contrasting the wily landscape of witching faeries is the Cajun influenced human world of boisterous festivity and honky-tonk music, sashaying across the stage in cowboy boots and merriment.
The play’s opening scene is the most challenging; it is filled with characters who are not given much to work with, other than introducing themselves and establishing plot. Clay David injects a call and response style of humor which livens up the scene. Hermia (Arden Kilzer) takes center stage, reminiscent of Marilyn Monroe’s feigned flighty blonde personality that peels back to reveal a sharp intellect under the mask. Unlike some of the other actors in the production, Kilzer finds a subtle balance for the small theatre, not needing to overact as though it were a massive auditorium. Her timing is perfect, and facial expressions priceless when she confronts Lysander (Mark Ian Schwartz).
Creeping through dark magic infused nights are the Voodoo faeries. Sumi Narendran’s Titania is as mesmerizing as her powers, transforming her lines into spells to enthrall the audience. Michael Walraven as Oberon brings a gentleness to the role that is not often portrayed. He is furious with Titania, but it fades swiftly, and his kindness toward the human lovers and Puck is heartwarming. Unfortunately, the production falters when it comes to the trickster. I have yet to see a successful Puck; it is perhaps the most difficult character to portray in Shakespeare. Alison Sacha Ross gave it her best attempt, but melodrama was out of place in the overall production, and her lines did not have enough variation in rhythm and pitch.
I have seen many renditions of the Mechanicals, from Hawaiian surfers to blue collar workers. The Cajun version is by far my favorite; a group of primarily retirement home aged women gathers, flowered day dresses, canes and all, to perform a reverse gender bending to what we are used to in Pyramus and Thisbe. Marilyn Hughes takes on the role of Nicole Bottom, a no-nonsense spinster ready to take on the world in a delightfully revised version of the timeless character. The rude mechanicals’ antics are the jewel of this production, well worth attending to see.
A Cajun Midsummer Night’s Dream is as richly seasoned as Cajun cuisine, and just as delectable. It is a unique perspective on the popular play, trimming and spicing it into a hilarious evening. Whether a Shakespeare enthusiast or not, Novato Theater Company is the place to be for a rollicking good time.