Fairies, lovers and donkeys, oh my! “A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream” is one of William Shakespeare’s most well known plays, and this classic comedy was recently brought to Brandeis. Hold Thy Peace, Brandeis’s Shakespeare theatre group, put on a production of this play, directed by Sabrina Goldsmith ’25 and assistant directed by Laurel Davidoff ’25, from April 28 to May 1. For three performances, audiences laughed at the hijinks and fell into a magical world where anything is possible. From the acting to the costumes to the set design and everything in between, this play was very well put together. Not to mention that audience participation added more fun to the show. Not including the senior festival, this is the last show of the school year and our theatre department has really gone out of this year with a bang.
This classic comedy takes place in a forest. The fairy king and queen Oberon and Titania are fighting. With the help of the trickster fairy Puck, Oberon wants to embarrass Titania with magic as revenge for her leaving him. However, that is not only the place where his magic is going. One story centers around a group of young lovers. Hermia and Lysander want to get married. However, Hermia’s father wants her to marry Demetrius. Helena, Hermia’s best friend, is in love with Demetrius even though he loves Hermia. They all go out in the forest one night and Oberon and Puck try to help solve their problems, but this does not turn out well. There is also a group of actors who are rehearsing a play in the forest. The most theatrical of the group is Bottom and this is who Puck decides to have some fun with. He turns Bottom into a half donkey half human creature without him knowing. Then to mess with Titania, Puck makes it so that she falls in love with the deranged donkey Bottom. It is a night of chaos in this forest, but it is also a night of love.
This production is one that really proves the saying that there are no small parts, only small actors. I particularly enjoyed Eli Issokson ’24 as Oberon/Theseus. He controlled the stage both as an Athenian king and as a fairy king and brought a lot of energy to the roles. Whether he was arguing with the fairy queen or using love potions on humans, he was very enjoyable to watch. I also liked Kat Roberts ’25 as Bottom. This is historically one of Shakespeare’s most memorable comedic characters so it requires a talented actor. Roberts was definitely the right amount of exaggerated and theatrical to sell this part. She sang in the forest as a donkey and gave a dramatic performance in a play within a play. Bottom has the most memorable parts of the play and Roberts did those parts justice. The role of Puck is also a famous comedic character and Kaija Grisham ’24 did an excellent job. The character brings a lot of fun mischief and gives the final monologue. They turn people into donkeys, make people fall in love or make jokes during other people’s scenes. Grisham did a great job as the unhinged little fairy with great comedic timing and they brought a lot of fun and liveliness to their scenes. I would not say there was a bad performance in the entire show and everyone brought their own dramatic flair, which is what made the play special.
I also appreciated the non-acting parts of the play, such as costumes and sets. The costumes felt Shakespearean, but also with fun modern twists. From Helena and Hermia’s well designed dresses in the forests, as well as their wedding dresses to Oberon and Titania’s fairy outfits that were both fancy dresses and rockstar king in a vest. Everything felt classical and magical. There was also Puck’s donkey head which was very well made and made the audience erupt in laughter as soon as they saw it. It looked just like a donkey. There was also the lovely set, which was simple but made the setting clear. When people were in Athens, we saw backgrounds of a fancy castle and golf course. When we were in the forest, those sets turned around to look like a forest. I think I would have liked for there to be something bigger for a more dramatic effect, as those backgrounds were the only sets, but I think this still looked nice. This is also where the audience participation came in. In everyone’s playbill was a glow stick, the type where you have to bend it so that it turns on. As soon as the play first entered the forest, everyone in the audience was instructed to bend their glow stick and raise it in the air. The glowing audience got to participate in creating a magical forest with these sticks. I thought that was a cool touch and made this production unique. There was also audience participation towards the end of the play when the people playing the group of actors performed their play within a play. Hats were thrown into the audience and if you caught a hat, you got to go up on stage and watch that play within a play as if you were actually in attendance. These creative touches helped the audience connect with this show.
While I liked this rendition of the show, there could have been some more innovation. For example, Hold Thy Peace’s production of “Macbeth” in the fall felt more creative in its choices, such as the mood lighting in deep reds, dramatic sounds through music and the horror aspect with zombies. Those types of things may not fit into the light comedy of “ A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” but a little more stylistic originality could have been nice. This is not to say I did not have fun at the show, just that it could have been more exciting. Maybe this is a criticism of how mainstream this play is, but that is not really criticizing this production, mostly just a criticism of humanity .
Overall, I applaud everyone involved with this show, from the actors’ comedic chops to the people behind the scenes who brought this mystical world to life. I was glued to my seat the whole time and I was laughing during most of the play. It was very clear that a lot of effort was put into this production. There were no mess ups or snafus the whole show, everything went smoothly. This was a wonderful production and I look forward to Hold Thy Peace’s next performance in the fall.