An excellent take on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at Folger Theatre

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An excellent take on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at Folger Theatre
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By Jordan Wright (Photo/Teresa Wood)

Aaron Posner’s brilliantly funny take on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” now playing at the Folger Theatre, is a delightfully frothy romp into Shakespeare’s dreamscape of sprites and lovers. His imaginative interpretation is filled with hilarious surprises, beginning with the indelibly adorable Erin Weaver as Puck, who sets the tone for the high jinks to follow.

In this telling of the dream excursion, Puck and her devious cohorts take us down a garden path speckled with modern technology, the occasional rap lyric, music looping by Puck’s forest calls and a vintage microphone for announcing the action.

But all is not shape-shifted into the modern age. There is still the play-within-a-play of Pyramus and Thisbe put on by Peter Quince (Richard Ruiz), a bumbling impresario and his eclectic band of schoolgirls in uniforms and headphones to entertain the royal couple.

Also still in the play is Hippolyta as an African queen, played by Caroline Stephanie Clay, who doubles as Titania. Hippolyta’s husband, Theseus, joins her in a slick tan suit as the Duke of Athens, played by Eric Hissom, doing double duty in the role of the fairy king, Oberon. Reality as fantasy in a switcheroo delivers all the hilarity The Bard intended.

To bring you up to speed, Hermia (Betsy Mugavero) and Lysander (Adam Wesley Brown) are madly in love, while Helena (Kim Wong) pines for Demetrius (Desmond Bing), who spurns her amorous attentions. When Oberon and Puck get up to magic and mischief by drugging the lovers with a love potion concocted of flower juice, here delivered by an eyedropper, all hell ensues as the four confuse their intendeds with the others’ lovers and the lusty Titania snuggles up with Bottom.

Holly Twyford plays Bottom, whom Puck turns into an ass adored by the love drug-smitten Titania. Costume designer Devon Painter interprets the beast with furry platform hooves and a feathery confection of donkey ears, and Twyford plays it to the hilt with her comedic timing and bucktoothed braying.

Scenic designer Paige Hathaway puts the performers on a simple stage of treehouses and platforms lit by fairy lights and a cut-out crescent moon, while choreographer Erika Chong Shuch softens the falls and fight scenes with a cluster of large blue pillows, throwing in a pas de deux by tango between Hermia and Lysander and a conga line for the lovers. Original music by Andre Pluess has Lysander serenading Hermia on ukulele.

There is some nifty scene stealing by the Jamaican-accented and ‘voguing’ skills of Monique Robinson as Snout and the hilarious whispery delivery of the ingenue schoolgirl Megan Graves as both Snug and Philostrate, but look for Weaver and Twyford to dominate this brilliant all-star cast.

Through March 6 at the Folger Theatre at the Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 E. Capitol St., SE, Washington, D.C. 20003. For tickets and information call 202-544-7077 or visit www.folger.edu/theatre

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