Brittany “BeeBee” Patillo in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo: Bill Brymer
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Matt Wallace
A review by Kate Barry
Entire contents are copyright © 2023 by Kate Barry. All rights reserved.
“Lord, what fools these mortals be!” Indeed, a mischievous Puck certainly has a blast sending four young lovers into a frenzy and transforming a boastful actor into a donkey. Fairies, love potions, and mistaken identities create magical mayhem at Central Park for the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival’s season opener of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. With fairy whimsy and human blunders, this production is a whimsical tale of love and happy endings.
In case you were not required to read this play in high school, I will give you a very brief rundown. Lysander (Nick Wills) loves Hermia (Nyazia Martin), who loves him back. Demetrius (Shaquille Towns) loves Hermia. Helena (Sarah Chen Elston) loves Demetrius. Got it? Wills and Towns do well to brood, bicker, and squabble as they fight over Hermia and then later over Helena. At odds from the beginning, Wills and Towns channel toxic masculinity in each altercation with a healthy dose of comedy as they swoon over their loves. Martin’s Hermia is level-headed and logical yet virtuous as the lovers find themselves deeper into the magic of the woods. Elston’s Helena is socially awkward and perfect in her plan to woo Demetrius. As the magic and comedic chaos build, Wills, Martin, Elston, and Towns play beautifully off each other with sexually frustrated-infused comedy and broad moments of the silly things do in desperation for love.
Along with these young lovers, a company of makeshift actors finds themselves in the forest as well. Under the direction of an exasperated Peter Quince (Tyler Tate), this company attempts to stage a production of forbidden lovers for the newly married king and queen. (Fun fact about Midsummer, it was written as a wedding present for the Queen. Coincidence? I think not.) Tate, along with Neill Robertson, Tony Reimonenq, Tom Luce, and Jon Huffman make strong comedic choices as amateur actors and the payoff is wonderful in “The Tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe.” Makeshift costumes, grandiose gestures, over-the-top facial expressions, and line delivery provide a satisfactory payoff for an already top-notch comedy.
And as for Bottom, the star in the play within a play? Wisely played by Jennifer Pennington with gusto and domineering conceit, this is a Bottom who is completely unaware of themselves. Pennington takes the comedic role to new heights as the player breaks the fourth wall to explain plot points and urgently demands the applause they so rightfully deserve.
Lastly, and most deservedly, I must mention the fairies. Oberon, Titania, Puck, and all the rest are simply gorgeous, illuminated sprites as they represent the elements and nature. Braden McCampbell’s Oberon is an alpha king who controls the forest with the flick of a wrist until it comes to his fairy queen. Abigail Bailey Maupin’s Titania does not back down from Oberon in her “parents and originals” speech. This is one fierce queen, which makes her love for Bottom as a donkey even more amusing. We see this fairy queen giggle and flounce with glee over the silliest of creatures, proving that love makes us act in surprising ways. Brittany Patillo’s Puck is a phenomenal stand-out in this show. This flighty creature of the night is an athletic rogue who has no trouble causing mischief just for laughs. I would say more about Patillo’s Puck but it is truly a physical performance that deserves to be seen with as few spoilers as possible.
In a season of theater with two Louisville-area companies already producing unique versions of Midsummer, this is one Shakespearean rom-com that seems to please regardless of cast or concept. With fairies playing in the woods and mortals bumbling about, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival has served up a light and airy start to their summer season.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
May 24-June 11; July 12, 15, 18, 21 (no performances on Mondays or Tuesdays in June)
Admission is free. Everyone is welcome, including pets.
Food trucks open at 6:30 pm; Will’s Tavern begins serving at 7:00 pm
Pre-Show begins at 7:15 pm, with main stage production at 8:00 pm
Shakespeare Festival in Central Park
C. Douglas Ramey Amphitheater
1340 S. Fourth St.
Louisville, KY 40208
Kate Barry has worked with many different companies around town since graduating in 08 from Bellarmine University. She’s worked with CenterStage, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions. She used to work in the box office at that little performing arts center on Main Street but now she helps save the planet. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. Her play “Catcher Released” won an honorable mention with the Kentucky Playwrites Workshop. She has written for LEO Weekly and TheatreLouisville.com as well. When she is not writing, she teaches yoga. Thanks for reading!