TAMPA — Escape into Jobsite Theater’s dreamscape, where the physical and creative skills of the cast and crew update a fantastical comedy.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Jobsite’s producing artistic director David M. Jenkins, is set in an enchanted wood where sprites and fairies play. Four star-crossed Athenian lovers have stumbled into the woods because of a law that gives men the right to determine who their daughter will marry, or else sentence them to death.
Meanwhile, the fairy king and queen are battling it out. The king’s control issues lead him to use Puck, a mischievous sprite, to play a trick on the fairy queen. His meddling also affects a troupe of actors traveling through the woods.
When the fairies (Adriana Corso, Nancy Mizzell, Martin E. Powers and Kasondra Rose) come out to play, they run through the aisles and gracefully fly up to silks and aerial hoops, called lyra, winding and twirling in a mesmerizing way. As Puck, Katrina Stevenson is astonishingly gifted, reciting difficult Shakespeare prose while hanging upside down wrapped in aerial silks. She’s sublime. She was also the production’s aerial choreographer and costume designer. It’s hard to imagine the roles of Puck and the fairies performed any other way after seeing it like this.
Composed by Jeremy Douglass and with sound direction by Jenkins, the soundtrack is effective in creating a dreamy atmosphere. Sounds range from synthy Stranger Things quality to nods to films like Labyrinth. An original song, Love at First Sight, feels straight out of a 1980s fantasy film and is sung by triple-threat actors (Rose and Powers) into microphones disguised in bouquets of flowers.
Haley Janeda and Adam Workman play dual roles as Titania and Oberon, the fairy queen and king, and Hippolyta and Theseus, Athenian royalty. They’re compelling as the latter, but buoyant as fairies. Titania is showered in adoration by the other fairies, while Oberon uses Puck to do his bidding.
Things get intense when the magic starts confusing the lovers. Hermia (Sadie Lockhart) and Helena (Kara Sotakoun) deliver impassioned passages of poetic dialogue and engage in an earring-removing fight.
All of the actors tend to overproject their lines, especially during a scene in which Puck’s meddling causes a fight between Demetrius (Matt Acquard) and Lysander (Patrick A. Jackson). The men run around the intimate theater yelling at the top of their lungs, an assault to the senses.
The fairy actors also do double duty as members of the troupe, where they flex their comedy skills performing Pyramus and Thisbe. One standout is Rose, who plays Snout with a lisp and impeccable timing. Martin E. Powers as Flute, reluctantly playing the female role of Thisbe, hilariously alternates between pouting and slapstick.
And there’s Giles Davies, who owns the part of the insufferable Bottom, the troupe’s leading actor who thinks he’s fit to play all of the roles. When Puck mischievously turns him into a creature with a donkey’s head, he’s just as arrogant as when he’s trying to steal the limelight. The elaborate mask, cleverly designed by Spencer Meyers, is made of wire so Davies’ face can still be seen as he whinnies and neighs and struts around.
After Oberon makes Puck set things right, the characters are dazed, wondering if it was all a dream. The shadowy lighting, designed by Brian Smallheer, dissolves away. A warm, bright light washes over.
The play’s final song borrows lyrics from another epic fantasy involving a dream, The Wizard of Oz. With a clear, sweet voice, Sotakoun delivers them:
“You’re out of the woods, you’re out of the dark, you’re out of the night. Step into the sun, step into the light.”
IF YOU GO
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Through Feb. 16. $29.50 and up. Shimberg Playhouse, David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. (813) 229-7827. For showtimes, visit jobsitetheater.org.