by Lynn on February 26, 2018

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Citadel, 304 Parliament St. Toronto, Ont.

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Richard Sheridan Willis

Set and Costumes by Shannon Lea Doyle

Lighting by Noah Feaver

Sound by Rob Bertola

Original Composition by Peter Nunn

Magic designed by Zach Counsil

Cast: Paul Amos

Zach Counsil

Christina Fox

Natasha Greenblatt

Michael Man

Jesse Nerenberg

Rena Polley

Elizabeth Saunders

A worthy, inventive production by the committed folks at the Chekhov Collective.

 The Story. It’s midsummer in Athens. Hermia and Lysander want to get married but Egeus, Hermia’s parent, wants her to marry Demetrius or face the consequences. I think Egeus said “Death”. A bit harsh, that.  So Hermia and Lysander escape to the woods, Demetrius follows and a woman, Helena who loves Demetrius follows him too. There are magical fairies in the woods who get involved and everything gets screwed up, until it’s sorted. A typical midsummer night’s goings on in a woods near Athens.

 The Production. How bold, a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that’s not done in the summer nor in the great outdoors. Director Richard Sheridan Willis has envisioned a spare, pared down but clear production of Shakespeare’s nightmarish “dream.” It’s produced now, in our winter, indoors in the flowing curtain-encased space of the Citadel. Characters stand at the back behind the gauzy curtains and flip them back to entre and exit. Very dramatic.

This is a production oozing sex. Hermia (Natasha Greenblatt) and Lysander (Jesse Nerenberg) are in love. Lysander in the woods is a bit more sexually charged but Hermia puts him off. Helena (Christina Fox) is in love with Demetrius (Michael Man) and pursues him who tries to get her to back off. Then there are the fairies with their wants and desires. Oberon (a strutting, dashing Paul Amos) is the king of the fairies and wants a changeling boy of his queen Titania (an elegant, regal Rena Polley) and she won’t give him up. Oberon has a fairy minion named Puck, played by Elizabeth Saunders as a middle aged imp with insouciance. This Puck certainly has the hots for Oberon and he knows it.

Director Richard Sheridan Willis plays on that sensuality so that both Oberon and Puck ramp up the heat. Oberon’s affections are still with his regal Titania and Rena Polley plays that up nicely as well, but with more control than Puck is able to muster.

There is also a group of “mechanicals” used for a different kind of comic relief with four of the young lovers double cast here. Bottom (Zach Counsil) is the only one singly cast—Mr. Counsil has enough on his plate providing the magic and fight choreography. The humour is less successful. There is a tendency to push the humour, especially Mr. Counsil, a bit less exuberance at everything might be in order.

Set and costume designer Shannon Lea Doyle has created a wonderful sense of the wood by having a huge swath of multi-coloured material arranged along the floor of the playing space. Beautiful.

Comment. I love the tenacity of the Chekhov Collective. It’s a group of theatre makers who wanted to study and perform Chekhov and obviously they are branching out with Shakespeare. They are committed to doing theatre seriously and with commitment. Sometimes they take on roles they might not generally be cast for. That’s part of the adventure.

The beauty of the production; its spareness and clarity thanks to director Richard Sheridan Willis and his cast, make it worthy and worth your time.

 The Chekhov Collective presents:

 Opened: Feb. 22, 2018.

Closes: March 11, 2018.

Running Time: 2 hours and 15 minutes.

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1 Sharon Holesh March 12, 2018 at 8:27 am

Please sign me up for your critiques
Thank you