That Puck! What an imp, what a funnin’ fool. Should any wee hint of the grave or the dour threaten to shank the shambolic ether of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, rest assured that frolicsome Puck, aka Robin Goodfellow, servant to Oberon (King of the Faeries), will hop to and eradicate all frowns with a sly spree of herkimer-jerkimer and utter tomfoolery. Nay, Puck ─ as the sprightly stand-in for Shakespeare’s bumptious side ─ will have none of our earnestness. Life, after all, is but a dream.
In LCC’s new student production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, actor Naomi Todd plays Puck to absolute perfection, pipping and popping about the stage with preternatural nimbleness, ever spreading a breed of mischievous levity that puts the lie to love’s mock tragedies. Todd’s is one among a handful of harmonious performances that elevate this limber, sexy play to the level of must-see.
Like The Tempest, which sprinkles its baggy plot with the deus ex machina of magic, A Midsummer Night’s Dream reveals Shakespeare the pure player, less concerned with the wow of artistry than the woo of wish fulfillment. The bifurcating plot ─ a sort of play within a play within a play involving four lovers and a clutch of amateur actors, all of whom fall under the enchantment of fairies in a forest ─ is pretty slight, almost silly; it ain’t no Hamlet, nor is it meant to be. What makes this play great is its dance of outsized characters, and Shakespeare’s willingness to indulge the comic spectacle of love and sex in all its glorious confusions.
On this front, then, LCC’s production, directed by Judith Roberts, is an almost unlimited success. The set design, by Roberts and James McConkey, is gorgeous, and combined with McConkey’s lighting and sound by Alberto Redondo, it turns the Blue Door Theatre into a vast wonderland. Roberts guides her cast with just the right touch, making sure the language of the script never overwhelms the liberal spirit of fun that makes this one of Shakespeare’s most physical and fluid works.
But what really makes the play click are the performances, especially that by Robert Newcomer, who shows some serious comic chops as the charmingly self-involved weaver Nick Bottom. Michelle Nordella is strong in the duel roles of Hippolyta and Titania. And a special shout-out to Melanie Moser, who on opening night filled in as Helena due to an illness; even with script in hand, Moser, full of fire and aplomb, provided one of the evening’s high points.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs 7:30 pm Thursday, April 24, and Friday, April 25, and 2 pm Saturday, April 26, at LCC’s Ragozzino Hall; $5 students, staff, seniors, $10 general.