For a few hours, local theatergoers can escape the wintry blast by visiting Annapolis Shakespeare Company's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," continuing through Dec. 22 at Bowie Playhouse in White Marsh Park.
This entertaining rendition of the Bard's comedy of romance and mischief tells the story of four young lovers lost in the woods, where they've gone to sort through their problems. Instead, they become entangled in a lovers' quarrel between the king and queen of fairies.
The comedy expands with an eclectic assortment of mortals, mischievous fairies and mythological Greeks — all focused on forms of love, from friendly to familial, lustful to dominant, constant to confused.
The plot takes another turn when a group of clueless rustics arrive, intent on becoming actors in a play. Meanwhile, Fairy King Oberon and Fairy Queen Titania conduct a royal battle, bringing disaster on everyone in their path, including the woodland visitors.
Now in its third season — and first as an emerging professional theater company employing professional actors in principal roles — Annapolis Shakespeare Company continues to offer re-imagined, entertaining and accessible interpretations of Shakespeare.
Young love is timeless, and the company sets this comedy in the 1990s, complete with music of the decade performed by cast members.
As we've come to expect of Annapolis Shakespeare, scene design is freshly imaginative, adding a frosty glaze to indicate the changes in season and emotion.
Scene design is by Kristin Clippard, who also serves as overall director. In fact, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is the company's first production not directed by founder and artistic director Sally Boyett.
Having directed many Shakespearean plays, Clippard set this "Midsummer Night" in what she describes as, "unseasonable weather with a frostbitten landscape, resulting from the fairies fighting affecting nature." Another clever turn is the use of umbrellas turned upside down, not only reflecting a change of weather but "to indicate topsy-turvy emotions in love."
Boyett serves as choreographer and lighting designer, displaying another talent in creation of a lighting system that moves rhythmically, accompanying and underscoring action. Those umbrellas, for instance, are lighted to indicate the ebb and flow of love set to a 1990s beat.
Costume design is by Clippard and Maggie Cason, who has served as costume designer since the company's founding in 2010. The wardrobe, suited to each character, has period authenticity. Reflecting the 1990s, that occasionally results in a studied suburban casual look that can become, at times, a bit predictable.
Another hallmark of the company is the combination of eloquence and energy among its young actors. That verve is present in this production, though somewhat diminished — perhaps a result of so many making their Annapolis Shakespeare debut.
One who delivers noteworthy poetry and zest is actor and teaching artist Stephen Horst, double cast as both Theseus of Athens and Oberon, King of Fairies. Horst commands his every scene, adding stature to Theseus and sly amusement as Oberon.
Perfectly suited as his partner, Annapolis Shakespeare actor Lauren Turchin is also double cast as Titania, the fairy queen, and Amazon queen Hippolyta. She is regally impressive in both roles, and against Horst's character she gives as good as she gets.
In his second Annapolis Shakespeare show, Ben Lauer impresses as physical and highly comic Demetrius, and equity actor Nick DePinto delivers a mirthful, mischievous and lively Puck, while also displaying noteworthy singing talent.
Among other outstanding debut player is Frank Vince as Bottom, hilariously hammy as a neophyte actor and projecting charming innocence as Titania's surprised beloved. Joel DeCandio is convincing as confused lover Lysander; and Amanda Forstrom is dynamic as Hermia, conveying an unwavering love.
Ashlyn Thompson delivers a lively portrayal of Helena, displaying notable comedic skill as she deals with Demetrius' rejection and Lysander's affection. Debuting player Valeka Holt brings notable eloquence to her every line, plus sharp comedic timing and sparkling zest as First Fairy.
Annapolis Shakespeare Company's production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," continues through Dec. 22, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m., with a matinee at 2 p.m. Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, at Bowie Playhouse at White Marsh Park, 100 White Marsh Park Drive, Bowie. For information call 410-415-3515 or annapolisshakespeare.org.