Summer is slowly slipping across the city, and the Seoul Shakespeare Company’s sultry take on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is ready to usher her in.
In the well-known tale, four amorous young Athenians free themselves from the stale city streets and head for the forest in pursuit of true love. But they encounter much more than their hearts originally desired as they enter the realm of the fairies in this sexy and subversive production directed by Seoul National University drama professor Raymond Salcedo.
The Athenians’ gray city threads’ contrast with the fairies’ sensual Grecian garb is just one way in which costume, lighting, sound, makeup and set all invoke the otherworldly forest. We should not be too shy to follow this enticingly executed comedy as it shakes off some social norms in the name of passion and adventure. As love blooms, we are whisked away from the strict decorum of Seoul ― err, Athens.
Paul Silvestri performs as Puck in the Seoul Shakespeare Company’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” (Robert Michael Evans)
Gender roles are first to fall foul to the fairies as we enter the woods. We find a feminine king in Lauren Ash-Morgan’s strong yet fey Oberon and an enchanting match in “his” queen, Grethe Lochner’s majestic Titania. Paul Silvestri is a hypersexual Puck whose lithe movement demonstrates the strong physicality that embodies the play. Same-sex kisses raised gasps from some in the audience, as players’ hands lingered a little longer than may have been allowed in the time of Shakespeare.
Such light touches are fun, but more important are the sound foundations upon which they are built. Masterful interplay between characters is achieved through good stagecraft, while skillful choreography and nicely timed dialogue bring the play together enticingly, allowing an old but well-loved chestnut of a play to bear fresh fruit. The expat production’s trained actors from around the world come together with a crackling chemistry on stage.
The back and forth between Helen Joo Lee’s petulant but feisty Helena and Heather Moore’s fair Hermia adds a sweet undertone of faltering friendship to the turmoil driven by their inconstant beaus.
Moments of thigh-slapping humor follow when strong performances from Ben Summers (Lysander) and Bryan Petersen (Demitrius) are added. Pledges of never-ending love are rendered ridiculous as fairy spells cause them to renounce what they once desired, descending into wonderful slapstick comedy.
Likewise, praise must go the earnest but hilarious “mechanicals”-turned-actors who perform the farcical play within the play. Alex Sawyer (Frances Flute), Cody Wilson (Nick Bottom), Michael Downey (Peter Quince) and Dominic Schiferl (Tom Snout) made Pyramus and Thisbe their own thanks to a unique physicality that freshened a familiar scene.
The monologues are not the triumph of this otherwise well-rounded production. They lulled rather sweetly amid the enchanting interaction between the cast.
Feminine and physical, but thoughtful too ― many other ingredients are right for this heady potion of a play.
Following last weekend’s opening, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be staged Saturday at 7:30 pm and Sunday at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. at the Kim Dong Soo Playhouse in Hyehwa-dong. The play is in English with Korean subtitles and there will be a Q&A session with the cast after the Sunday afternoon performance.
Tickets are 20,000 won or 15,000 for students. Visit www.seoulshakespearecompany.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
By Kirsty Taylor (email@example.com)
Kirsty Taylor is a former journalist for The Korea Herald. ― Ed.