A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Review by Amelia Parenteau
The NOLA Project’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Brittany N. Williams, is a romp,
and this tight 2-hour production flies in the face of anyone who alleges The Bard’s works are
boring. Incidentally, this production marks a full circle moment for The NOLA Project, having
performed A Midsummer Night’s Dream as their first sculpture garden production, back in
As I settled into my picnic blanket with my fellow “groundlings” at the New Orleans Museum of
Art’s Besthoff Sculpture Garden, I was struck by both the honey-colored sun cloaking the
Spanish moss in the live oak trees on stage, and the multigenerational audience surrounding
me. Not to mention the Backstreet Boys crooning from the sound system.
Just as the audience trickled into the garden, the characters gradually entered the stage in the
round, garbed in early aughts summer chic, greeting each other, preparing the space for the
storytelling about to unfold. It felt as though we’d all been invited back in time, not just to the
pre-cell phone, pre-social media era of 2002, when this production was set, but to a medieval
village fair. Or perhaps the city of Athens, Greece, and its surrounding woods…
Like a dream, this play has subplots galore and intentionally blurs the lines between fact and
fiction, particularly as the fairies delight in interfering with the mortals’ realities. This includes
the play within a play, Pyramus and Thisbe, whose plot bears a striking resemblance to Romeo
and Juliet, played farcically in this context. As a traditional comedy, the story ends in marriage,
not only of Theseus and Hippolyta, but also the pairs of lovers who have finally aligned their
desires: Hermia and Lysander, and Demetrius and Helena.
For a story as layered and complicated as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Williams’ direction and
the ensemble cast’s fabulous performances render the story truly accessible. To enhance the
feeling of communal experience, the actors’ sotto voce commentary underscoring the primary
action or dialogue added a realistic and often quite humorous touch. J’aiLa Price as Helena was
the perfect fiery foil to Alexandria Miles’ sugar sweet Hermia (until the tables were turned, of
In one spectacular moment of worlds colliding, Titania, the fairy queen exquisitely played by
Monica R. Harris, references the moon and points to it, and all the characters on stage gaze up
adoringly, causing the audience to also turn around and behold: the real moon! A glowing
crescent, slipping in and out of clouds.
This production truly had something for everyone: malaprops, innuendo, fairies on stilts,
Eminem, theater magic (like when Puck, the fairy king’s henchman, seemingly illuminates the
canopy of string lights by tossing an orb of light into the sky), impassioned soliloquies, bumbling
fools, magic potions, lovers’ quarrels, fart jokes. Kaci Thomassie and Bridget Ann Boyle’s costume and prop design were outstanding, including delightful details such as the lion’s mane
made of yellow rubber gloves in the play within a play. Emblematic of the entire production’s
fantastical melding of the absurd with the everyday, “these things do thus please me that befall
preposterously,” to quote a certain woodland sprite.
See the NOLA projects upcoming productions here.
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