PSU Vanguard Shield Icon

Tygres Heart Theater goes to Athens

A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Dolores Winningstad Theatre
Tygres Heart Theater
1111 S.W. Broadway
April 18 – May 25

The Tygres Heart Theater’s presentation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” offers a new take on the Shakespeare comedy. Shakespearian productions can be difficult for those of us who no longer speak Old English. With men in tights and swooning women it can be downright boring. Not to confuse boredom with disinterest, sometimes boring can mean too hard to understand.

Shakespeare was a genius, his plays are incredible on many levels but without a teacher the average person can’t understand a word. If you would like to learn to appreciate the joy of The Bard, Tygres Heart has taken the tale of lovers and fairies and mistaken identity of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and turned it into your kind of lesson.

The original setting of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is Athens, Greece with 17th century costumes. This production is also set in Athens, but this time it’s Athens, Ga. and the time period is closer to 1930. This fresh approach makes for an incredibly rich and deep variation.

The fairies are led by a Caribbean Oberon and African princess Titania. Oberon’s go-to fairy is the sprightly Puck, whose mischievous nature is pivotal in the entire action of this play. In this production, Puck is played by a female actor, Sherry Okamura. She projects an unrelenting energy that is absolutely necessary to make that character shine.

With an infusion of a steady African influenced drumming the fairies perform an enchanting collection of traditional dances and songs. The fairies also double as house servants in the homes of the Athenians, which adds a level of thoughtfulness about our own heritage to the mix. The fairies are alternately celestial beings who control the night of the forest and housemaids who take orders in the day.

The simple sets of this piece are in stark contrast to the richness of the material, but this only allows the actors more opportunity to control the action. The Athenians Helena, Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius are a comic force with a southern twang. In particular, Lara Faye Smith as Hermia and Deanna Wells in the role of Helena are a pleasure to watch. Their skill at bringing the play to life and bringing the audience to a roar of laughter is marvelous.

However, the true comic genius of the production lies with the country bumpkin producers of the play within a play, particularly Christopher Herman as Bottom the Weaver. Although slight in stature this actor managed to fill the whole stage in all of his scenes. His pratfalls and pitch-perfect timing had the audience in tears of joy.

Hurry and make plans to see this fantastic play before the run ends. This is the last production of the season for the company, so you will have to wait a while to see what comes after this wild ride.