There are people who dread the summer theater season for the proliferation of Shakespeare, and there are people who love it.
All of this Shakespeare means, of course, that there are some productions better than others. If you’re going to do Shakespeare for the umpteenth time, you need to have a reason for doing it other than “It’s summer, it’s time for Shakespeare.”
For a theater company doing it right — absolutely right — look no further than Shakespeare and Company in Lenox and their current production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
The magic and mystery of the play are set in jazz-era New Orleans, which has magic and mystery of its own.
It’s a masterful choice. The alternately mournful and joyous strains of jazz throb through the play. The costumes are perfect for the time period, and the set itself is a puzzle-box of levels and layers, hidden entrances and doors. The whole production has an airy, breezy feel to it, with the implied heat of Louisiana always present in the background.
‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’
WHERE: Shakespeare & Company, 70 Kemble St., Lenox, Mass.
WHEN: Through Aug. 30
HOW MUCH: $80-$15
MORE INFO: 413-637-3353, www.shakespeare.org
The show is brilliantly cast; there is not a weak link among the players. The lovers (Kelly Galvin, Cloteal L. Horne, David Joseph and Colby Lewis) utterly sparkle; the combination of making the women fully-formed self-aware women of the jazz era along with adding some of the most amazing acrobatic fight choreography I’ve ever seen onstage made their scenes some of the most startling and stunning to watch.
The rude mechanicals — the local tradesmen working on a play of their own — are always a delight; it won’t surprise you that they were here, as well. Having the mechanicals sing and play instruments on stage was inspired. Johnny Lee Davenport’s Bottom was the blowhard we all know and love, in all of his iterations: as Bottom, as Pyramus, and as Bottom-turned-ass by the machinations of Puck.
The mechanicals seemed to have such joy working together that you utterly could not help but feel that joy when watching their scenes. This is the sign of great theater.
Puck (Michael F. Toomey) was a delight as trickster and merry wanderer, or following Oberon like his somewhat-unintelligent dog; he had the excitement and joy of a child at Christmas with the darker undercurrent of the fairies, who can change your entire life on a whim.
Director Tony Simotes had a strong vision when going into this production, and it carries through the entire show. There’s not a moment wasted, not a motion from the background characters not planned and calculated, not a costume or set piece not perfect-planned for optimal effect.
You’ll have plenty of opportunities to see Shakespeare this summer, if you so choose. I can only encourage you to make this one of them, or miss out on one of the most inspiring productions I’ve seen in a very long time.