By Jen Warner
For the first time since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, DCCC’s Drama Department performed “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the once deserted college courtyard from Aug. 4-7 to a sold-out audience.
“I think in a way a lot of us can relate with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” after the last year and a half,” said DCCC alumna Anna Welsh, who played the queen of the fairies. “It’s that shared feeling that you’re waking back up and starting your life again.”
I was fortunate to witness the show on Aug. 2 and treated to an evening of talent, splendor, and hope.
While viewers were encouraged to bring a blanket or chair, I opted for a spot directly in the plush green grass on this cool, 70-degree evening.
The gentle breeze, the singing crickets, and the cyan sky with its setting sun provided a fitting summer ambiance that only nature could assemble.
Peach-tinted clouds hung over an intimate stage with a berried, woodland backdrop. The set was further brought to life by lavender stage lights.
“Theseus,” perfectly portrayed by cast member Ari Dym, kicked off the show and took quick command with his classical inflection as he narrated the story.
He introduced a confused quad of Athenian lovers who’d run away to the forest in pursuit of each other.
Cassie Boesenhofer’s “Helena” chased DJ Truxler’s “Demetrius,” who pined for Umani Padmore’s “Hermia,” who yearned for Kieran Eustace’s “Lysander,” forming a complicated love story portrayed hilariously and convincingly by all.
Emma Karn’s mischievous character “Puck” often appeared through a hinged hole in the stage floor, tricking the lost lovers and testing their feelings for one another.
“Puck” was the sidekick to Kelly Montgomery’s “Oberon,” who orchestrated the ruses they would carry out. The two formed a deceptive and dynamic duo who consistently sustained the story’s clever structure.
The forest was also occupied by Anna Welsh’s “Titania,” the queen of the fairies. She jingled each time she took the stage, and with light steps and waving arms, she transported us out of the courtyard and into the woods.
Additionally, a group of actors utilized the forest to prepare for the upcoming play they plan to present to “Theseus” as a wedding gift.
Dontay Driver played actor “Peter Quince” with unrivaled expression, while Kyle Wiesenberg gave an electrifying enactment as “Bottom.” Together, they were comical geniuses.
Adding to that genius was Will Myer as “Snout/Wall,” Danny Sommo as “Snug/Lion,” Casey Costigan as “Starveling/Moonshine,” and Joey Keeshan as “Flute/Thisbe.”
The skill it took to execute these dual roles is massive, as they each played characters who were rehearsing and performing as actors in a play within the show itself.
If not performed flawlessly, this complexity has the potential to be a point of confusion for the audience. Instead, viewers were treated to a concise and sidesplitting dynamic that was easy to follow.
Sprinkled throughout the play was the dreamy voice of Phoebe Smith’s “Singing Fairy,” elevating the whimsy of the show’s entire experience.
The costumes were artfully designed by the show director’s mother, Mimi Smith. Each carefully selected garment breathed new life into the traditional characters, like the royal accouterments and Chuck Taylor sneakers.
Many details of the show were woven into an enchanting juxtaposition, like the timeworn text displayed as casual conversation, the forest berries and fresh popcorn props, and the earth tone elements and neon accessories.
I found myself spellbound for the entirety of the show. At no point was a single member of the cast stagnant as their quips and mannerisms were constantly lending themselves generously to the script.
Director Stephen Smith Jr. calmly paced the grounds, pausing the set to add his insights, with professional attention to detail acquired from decades of theater experience. He looked on with pride at a cast and crew that later spoke of him with profound adoration.
Every person in the production was uniquely brilliant in their role while sharing one thing in common: They were simply overjoyed to be performing again.
Backstage during intermission, they sat in a cluster of gratifying exhaustion. Welsh shared that many of them have not performed on a stage in years after the Coronavirus pandemic forced lockdowns around the world.
But that didn’t stop Welsh from pursuing her theater dreams. Instead, she realized the power of theater and decided to harness it through performance and playwriting.
“I’ve spent the last couple of years throwing myself into the social change aspect of theater and how it can change the community,” Welsh said. “COVID-19 gave me the opportunity to not be on the stage, but it pushed me to find other areas within the realm of theater that I enjoy just as much.”
Alumna Guinevere Paviglianiti, who expertly played the roles of “Egeus/Peaseblossom/Philostrate,” also expressed elation in returning to the stage, a place she considers home in her fifteenth year of theater performance.
Paviglianiti said that many students graduated from the theater program without performing a single show because of cancellations due to the pandemic. Several of those students had roles in this play.
She was quick to credit her fellow cast members, all with different backgrounds, who came together safely to make their production work.
For those in attendance, Paviglianiti wants the takeaway to be that of optimism and perseverance.
“This show is proof that anything is possible,” Paviglianiti said. “Don’t ever give up.”
As an amateur albeit impressed audience member, I can confirm wholeheartedly that the production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at DCCC successfully instilled that very message: as we inch towards some sense of normalcy after a trying year, anything is possible if we work hard and work together.