It’s an evening of love, comedy and mischievous frolicking in Folger Theatre’s production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Running until Aug. 28, performances are presented in The Playhouse, a specially-constructed stage inside the D.C.’s National Building Museum in the Judiciary Square downtown area.
Upon entering The Playhouse, you feel magic in the air. The production, directed by Victor Malana Maog, has a talented cast interpreting Shakespeare’s confusing love relationships in a delightful way with modern-day sensibilities and costumes.
Maog and Folger Director of Programming and Folger Theatre Artistic Director Karen Ann Daniels have taken a daring approach in this contemporary version of a Shakespeare favorite.
“There’s been so much change in our lives, in our world and truly, in our organization. Most importantly, we’ll have this unique opportunity to delight audiences, young, old and everything in between in this venue we are creating from the ground up,” Daniels said when referencing The Playhouse design and the casting. “‘Midsummer’ represents an opportunity for us all to have some respite through adventure, some magic and romance, and joy.”
My thinking about “Midsummer” has been as a play within a play with a layered backstory. There is a King of the Fairies who is quarreling with his wife over raising a child from one of the ladies in waiting. Meanwhile, a troupe of actors prepares to produce a stage production about two young couples in love, a storyline at the core of the play. The acting troupe work on understanding their production and characters through a lot of animated discussions filled with comic relief.
A conflicting love relationship between the two young couples is complicated by a fairy who sprinkles them with magic love dust creating what appears to cause missteps in the relationships between the young couples and even within the troupe of actors. Yes, it is confusing but even those unfamiliar with the play will be able to follow.
Jacob Ming-Trent plays the character Bottom, a member of the acting troupe in “Midsummer” who is sprinkled with that love dust. He comes to this production of “Midsummer” with a background in stage and film. He describes the staging area as gorgeous, huge and one of the grandest spaces in which he has ever worked.
“The space in and of itself is a thing. The lighting design is spectacular,” Ming-Trent said. “And with the costumes, we’re doing a unique production. I think people will have a special evening.”
This rendition of “Midsummer” is intentionally steeped in diversity through its production team and casting. With that in mind, the production does not deviate from the original meaning of the play but does take into consideration the conditions impacting the U.S. today.
“We’re still doing the words but coming out of the reckoning during this pandemic, theaters changed how they operate. It has changed the way we work with text, how we talk to each other and how we communicate. It has been baked into this show,” Ming-Trent said in assessing the pace and expression of this current production of the Shakespearean classic.
Inside a spectacular theater design, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will keep audiences fully entertained. One consideration is that the space between the rows is a bit tight. If you are tall or need more legroom, ask for a front row or aisle seat. You will want to be completely comfortable so you can enjoy the show.
Folger Theatre’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is produced in association with the National Building Museum and the University of South Carolina and continues through Aug. 28. For ticket information and performance dates, go to www.folger.edu/theatre or call (202) 544-7077.