Many of us have seen William Shakespeare’s magical play A Midsummer Night’s Dream at least once somewhere. It is a popular production for high schools, Shakespeare festivals and repertory companies. I have seen it a number of times in various forms and venues. I have even been in two productions of the play. So – it is in many ways a favorite story which most of us know the arc of and which we may even have certain sections we look forward to. This familiarity and appreciation is partly because the Bard’s most fanciful play is so open to the interpretive skills of directors and designers around the theatre world. The very quality of magic that permeates the play allows imaginations to run in wide open position. Many of us are very glad this is the case, because it gives us a reason to attend this very funny, quite romantic play yet again.

So it is with Indiana Repertory Theatre’s wonderful production; and by wonderful, I mean full of wonder. Starting with the premise that the story is indeed the midsummer dream of a young boy, we are taken on an inspired journey into the familiar land of Theseus and Hippolyta, Oberon and Titania, the 4 Lovers, the Fairies, the Mechanicals, and Puck. The boy watches his dream as we watch, and all of us are taken away into a beautifully designed and directed rendering of this most familiar of tales.

A Victor V phonograph from 1907

A Victor V phonograph from 1907

Scenic designer Linda Buchanan has much to be proud of, as she has taken some illustrious liberties in her vision of Athens. Setting the boy’s real time era in the early 1900’s, and using a Victor V phonograph of that era as the central transcending set piece is brilliant. The flowery design appears several times in props and furnishings, and solidifies the idea that we are indeed inside the boy’s dream. Another astonishing feature is that the forest outside Athens is convincingly portrayed without use of a single tree or even the image of one – furthering a sense of the dreamy world that the story inhabits. Her further use of fanciful design ideas include walls that float into place, and a clocklike moon that hangs in the night Athenian sky.

Likewise, Nan Zabriskie’s costumes are well designed, imaginative, colorful and lush. The fairy costumes are especially wildly imagined and fun. Indeed, all the costumes must be amazingly constructed pieces, as the lightening quick-changes necessitated by the many dual-roles go practically unnoticed. Marvelous lighting by Ann G. Wrightson completes the visual feast, and artful music composition and sound design by Joe Cerqua top off the sensory enchantment.

The Boy watches Lysander and Hermia in his dream - "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

The Boy watches Lysander and Hermia in his dream – “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Finally, living in this spellbinding world are the many characters created by Director Peter Amster and his highly talented cast. Amster has envisioned the play in it’s most fun and loving senses. He lets his actors’ portrayals be especially full, yet keeps them pointed in the correct direction for the old tale. As I have said, we are in a boy’s dream here and that boy is charmingly portrayed by fourth-grader Ethan Halford Holder. Onstage watching his dream about 95% of the time, he is cleverly positioned as an addition, while totally being no distraction – a marvelous detail for such a young actor. Ryan Artzberger is calm, yet vital is his dual roles of Theseus and Oberon. His pairings – with Jennifer Johansen, adroit in her Hippolyta/Titania roles, and with Gerson Dacanay as the butlery Philostrate and the sharp imp, Puck – are fully realized and strong.

Bottom, Titania, Peaseblossom and Mustardseed in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

Bottom, Titania, Peaseblossom and Mustardseed in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

The Fairies/Mechanicals include Jason Bradley as Peaseblossom/Snug, Adam Crowe as Mustardseed/Tom Snout, Scot Greenwell as Moth/Francis Flute and Rob Johansen as Cobweb/Robin Starveling. They are joined in the Mechanical scenes by Mark Goetzinger, as Peter Quince (he also plays Egeus) and Henry Woronicz as Nick Bottom. First, the fairy scenes – as Titania’s attendants, all flit about as if trailed by fairy dust – the visual smack being that these are all full term men in wonderfully silly and themed fairy costumes. More visual feasting, I’d say.

As the Mechanicals, the group is a deft ensemble. Their leader, Woronicz’ wonderfully hammy Nick Bottom, is a masterfully created clown who nearly steals every scene he is in. (Which IS what this character is wont to do.) Of course, we get an extra look at these fellows in the “play within the play”, and I enjoyed this highly comic scene immensely. Especially noteworthy is Greenwell’s turn as Thisbe. He broke new ground, for me at least, with a sweet, more kind-hearted death scene than ever I have seen. It was both marvelous and new.

The three couples listen to Philostrate in "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

The three couples listen to Philostrate in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

The very energetic group of Kelsey Brennan as Hermia, Sarah Price as Helena, Alex Hugh Brown as Lysander and Alex Goodrich as Demetrius, more than handled the multi-layered story line of the four lovers. The emotion and physicality (and physical-emotion) which is required for these parts was perfectly done. This comically adept quartet, caught in the magical forest, was for me, the highlight of the evening. All four players gave superior performances and I look forward to seeing any of them onstage again.

One last performer – the skating fairy, expertly done by young Miss Gracie Evans – was the cherry on the top of this amazing production.

I had only one regret in regard to this evening’s show – and that is that Mrs. K and I don’t get to IRT’s incredible venue nearly often enough. This theatre and it’s company are a treasure of our city. I am always so glad to see theatre done at this lofty level. And I cannot wait to be back.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues at IRT through May 12. Please call 317.635.5252 for ticket information and reservations.