November 1, 2009
By LAWSON TAITTE
The Dallas Morning News
The Dallas Theater Center's A Midsummer Night's Dream is one long celebration. And, thank goodness, it's something to celebrate.
On Friday, the company officially opened the first season at its new home, the AT&T Performing Arts Center's Wyly Theatre. Shakespeare's happiest comedy was the perfect choice, with its nuptial festivities and its fairy blessings of the house.
The play's whole last act is a wedding reception. For this occasion, director Kevin Moriarty starts the party early and continues it long after the last lines have been spoken. Cast members sing current pop songs and pull the audience onstage to dance with them.
Moriarty makes this a very contemporary Midsummer. But at bottom, he's a classicist who makes us attend to Shakespeare's words with fresh attention. You can hear and comprehend every syllable – at least those that the director hasn't cut, sometimes in radical fashion.
This isn't the most heartfelt or the funniest version of the play I've seen, though it has plenty of emotion and laughs. But it's the most triumphant – pushing the fabulously flexible Wyly space in all kinds of ways.
The cast could hardly be stronger. Cedric Neal charms and seduces as Puck, and Liz Mikel and Matthew Stephen Tompkins war majestically as the fairy queen and king. The novel resolution of their conflict is the most original part of the production, in fact.
Chamblee Ferguson was born to play Bottom, the pretentious amateur actor who turns into a donkey. He dies a thousand deaths in the play within the play, each of them hilariously hammy. Then Marcus M. Mauldin, a beefy Thisbe, does his best to outdo all the gory excess.
Three of the four young lovers are Southern Methodist University students. No problem. In fact, Matt Tallman's Demetrius and especially Abbey Siegworth's Helena are real discoveries. Using students from the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts pays off, too. Their youth and freshness are part of the message of this timely, and timeless, Midsummer Night's Dream. As are the bubbles, balloons and the general high spirits.
Through Nov. 22 at Wyly Theatre, AT&T Performing Arts Center, 2400 Flora St. Runs 165 mins. $15 to $81. 214-880-0202, www.dallastheatercenter.org.
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