Oh, those Carson comics

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Proscenium Players frolic in Shakepeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Proscenium Players frolic in Shakepeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Rated 5.0

Before the play began, I knew the Proscenium Players’ production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be entertaining. This show provides one of the funniest programs I have ever seen, with program notes and bios written in Elizabethan English. Call me a dork, but lines like “What is she but a woman of theatre—oh, that lovely Carson High Theatre” had me laughing out loud.

Director Christopher James and his cast clearly understand that Shakespeare’s byline need not be equated with pretension or stuffiness. This show is so full of energy and humor that it’s easy to forget that the script is more than 400 years old. It is a hilarious show and a thoroughly enjoyable adaptation.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream involves a large cast and elaborate scenery, which makes the intimate Black Box Theater of the Brewery Arts Center seem like an odd venue. In fact, the set overflows the small stage, with trees and stones of the forest abutting the audience. At many times, the actors are close enough to touch, and this intensifies the excitement and fun of the show.

The plot: Young Hermia (Megan Sulprizio) is being forced by her father to marry a man she doesn’t love, Demetrius (Rico James), while her heart belongs to Lysander (Andrew Johnson). Her options are simple. She can marry Demetrius, join a convent or be put to death. Hermia and Demetrius decide to flout Athenian law the best way they can think of—they flee Athens. To further complicate matters, Hermia’s friend Helena (Amy Gotham) is in love with Demetrius, who does not return her affection. The four teens steal away into the woods together, and havoc ensues.

In the forest, fairy king Oberon (Joshua Jessup) is playing a trick on queen Titania (Elizabeth Tonkinson). Oberon dispatches mischievous Puck (Corey Stockton) to sprinkle sleeping Titania’s eyes with a magical flower that will cause her to fall in love with the first person or creature she sees upon waking. After witnessing Helena and Demetrius arguing in the woods, Oberon asks Puck to cast the same spell upon Demetrius so that he will return the affections of the lovesick Helena. The ruse with Titania is a smashing success, with her falling head over heels for the self-important Bottom (Jeff Whitt), whom Puck has given the visage of a donkey. Naturally, the ass jokes abound.

I was blown away by the sheer talent presented on stage, especially considering the age and experience of the cast. Many of the actors are either in high school or recent graduates, yet their comic timing and dramatic range surpass those of many seasoned actors who have graced the local stages. I had to double check the program to make sure I was watching community theater in Carson City.

The play features some great performances, but the chemistry of the cast makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. The conflicts are well-played, but the show is at its best in its exuberant comic moments—which, happily, are plentiful. By the curtain call, I was ready to get up and dance along with the actors, which was fortunate because the actors grabbed random audience members and brought them onstage to join in the revelry. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is comedy as it should be—clever, cute and enough fun to get audiences out of their seats.