In any production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the show-stopping scenes are typically the Lovers’ Quarrel in Act III, scene 2 and the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe by the Mechanicals at the end of the play.
In the current iteration of Midsummer at the Selma Arts Center, the Mechanical’s endearing and collaborative performance edges out the romantic drama by just a nose. Quince (Claudio Laso), Bottom (Laura Dodds), Flute (Chris Ortiz-Belcher), Snout (Marlena Eckle) and Snug (Jessica Reedy) make such an endearing troupe with their amateur hip-hop stylings, awkward gestures, intense desire to just entertain that one can’t help but cheer at their triumphant performance.
Dodds makes a vigorous Bottom throughout this Midsummer and Laso’s Quince wrangles the ensemble and performs his prologue to Pyramus and Thisbe with admirable aplomb. But the ultimate moment in this production goes to Ortiz-Belcher’s Thisbe as she encounters the dead body of her love.
What is often played for histrionics and laughs is a very touching, well-crafted dramatic moment here, set off by an effective lighting shift (lighting design by David Esquivel). Ortiz-Belcher plays it without a touch of irony, the commitment to the moment elevating the amateur theatrics of the Mechanicals to a moment of real emotion. First-time director Casey Ballard set up this entire metadrama incredibly effectively.
The cast is a mix of newcomers to Shakespeare and veteran performers of The Bard, and Ballard led them in effective use of the language by most of the cast. Kate McKnight as Titania and Renee Newlove as Puck bring some new twists to the language with their performances that kept the linguistic variety Midsummer is known for front-and-center.
While the individual performances have varying degrees of success in terms of the language and Ballard’s concept is occasionally unclear in the execution, this Midsummer has plenty of engaging and effective scenework and an earnestness from the whole ensemble that is hard to resist. Ballard shows promise as a director of Shakespeare in the future.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare runs through November 17th at the Selma Arts Center. Tickets and Information Here.