COURTESY OF JHU BARNSTORMERS The Barnstormers’ next performance of Midsummer is this Friday at 8 p.m.
One of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is, arguably, also one of Shakespeare’s lightest and most accessible plays.
It follows two sets of lovers and a cast of common players on a journey into the forest for a night of chaos at the hands of some mischievous fairies.
It is a fun play and one that anyone, from Shakespeare fanatic to STEM major, can enjoy.
“No other play in the canon has been so oft dissected and re-contextualized,” director Karack Osborn wrote in the playbill.
It is also a play that most people have seen (second only maybe to Romeo and Juliet), studied or at least know the general plot of.
As such, it is a play that you can sit back and enjoy without having to think too much about — simply allow the magic to wash over you.
The play opens with white lights illuminating the stage as Peter Quince, a representation of Shakespeare played by sophomore S. Usman Enam, stands center stage scribbling madly into a notebook.
He draws each character up individually onto the square platform set in the middle of the stage until the entire cast is standing on it, as if he’s writing them into the story.
From there we move into the play with Theseus (junior David Gumino) and Hippolyta (senior Elizabeth Winkelhoff) before swiftly moving on to the realm of the fairies and the mystical.
With the raising of Puck’s (senior Allie Zito) hand, the stage is enveloped in a warm glow as the wistful canopy that hovers above the actor’s heads is lit up with, quite fittingly, twinkling fairy lights.
The lights and the staging are expertly used, and there is a wonderful balance between the production being incredibly minimalistic but also not coming across as too simple or plain.
Controlled by the fairies, in particular Puck and Oberon (Gunimo), the beautiful golden fairy lights and the white canopy is lit up with soft pinks and blues and yellows and then cast into darkness again, further adding to the mystical feeling of the world of the forest.
Through just having the most essential props and staging, the actors are left to rely heavily on the words they’ve been given.
The play is written largely in iambic pentameter, which presents challenges, according to sophomore Sebastian Durfee who plays Lysander.
“[It is] both a blessing and a curse,” he said. “It allows you to remember it in a rhythm but it’s a very, very convoluted language.”
Ritika Kommareddi, who plays Philostrate and the First Fairy, also noted the difficulties associated with the complicated language.
“It forces you to be able to show the story that you’re trying to tell because Shakespeare is so difficult to understand sometimes,” she said. “We couldn’t use anything except our words and emotions,” she said.
It is clear that Osborn is very much a purist and that staying true to exactly what Shakespeare wrote and what he intended was very important to him.
However, this in no way meant that any of the language seem forced or unnatural. When Shakespeare is done well, you forget that the actors are not speaking the way we would every day, and the actors definitely achieved that.
While the actors definitely take advantage of the numerous comical moments in the play — it is, after all, a comedy — there is also a clear emphasis on including serious, poignant moments as well.
“We tried to veer away from being a pure comedy. Our director made sure we paid attention to the serious stuff too, and I think that definitely helps the comedy,” sophomore Carver Bain, who plays Demetrius and was also the publicity manager, said.
It is clear that every single person in this production worked extremely hard to make it work.
With just four weeks of rehearsal, three weeks in the space and a director based in New York City (who drove to Baltimore for rehearsals each weekend Thursday through Sunday), what the Barnstormers have managed to pull off is amazing.
“It was incredibly daunting from the beginning, but everyone decided we were all going to work so hard because every single person knew that they had to be doing their job as well as possible for us to be able to pull something like this off,” stage manager Tori Lyons said.
Kommareddi and sophomore Emily Lee, who played Robin Starveling and Peaseblossom, said the show offers a perfect mix of sex, violence, magic and humor.
What more could you possibly want from a night at the theatre?
The show will be at the Swirnow Theatre in the Mattin Center from Nov. 3 to 5.