A Midsummer Night’s Dream Feb. 25 to March 6

Performing Arts Department presents Shakespeare classic

City versus forest. Apollonian rationality versus Dionysian subconscious. Wayward lovers and working-class thespians versus the regal, glittering world of the fairies.

William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a study in contrasts, joining elegant verse and bawdy humor with cruel punishments and magical enchantments “past the wit of man.”

This month, Washington University’s Performing Arts Department (PAD) in Arts & Sciences will present the Bard’s most popular comedy — arguably the most popular ever written — as its spring Mainstage production.

Performances will take place in the university’s Edison Theatre at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 25 and 26; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 27. Performances will then continue the next weekend, at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 4 and 5; and at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 6.

Edison Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd. Tickets are $15, or $10 children, students, seniors and Washington University faculty and staff. Tickets are available through the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and through all MetroTix outlets.

For more information, call (314) 935-6543 or visit padarts.wustl.edu.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

From left to right: Marissa Barnathan as Hermia, Peter Winfrey as Lysander, Megan Lacerenza as Helena, and Eli Keehn as Demetrius. Photo by David Kilper/WUSTL Photo Services. Download hi-res image.

Set in modern dress, the story begins in Athens as the city prepares for the wedding of Duke Theseus and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Amidst the celebration, Hermia, a young noblewoman, is ordered by her father, the stern Egeus, to marry Demetrius. Instead, she flees to the forest with her own chosen beloved, Lysander.

Demetrius, learning of the elopement from Helena, Hermia’s friend, sets off in pursuit, the smitten Helena following with him. Yet the woods are filled with strange perils and soon all four would-be lovers are enmeshed in a feud between Oberon, king of the fairies, and Titania, his defiant queen.

“The inhabitants of this world are not innocent, childlike fairies,” says Henry I. Schvey, PhD, professor of drama and of comparative literature in the PAD, who directs the cast of 32. “They’re rougher and wilder — the essence of forest and earth.

“Shakespeare is dealing with the subconscious, with dreams and dreaming, and the story begins perilously close to tragedy,” Schvey says. “Egeus orders Hermia to marry Demetrius and if she doesn’t, the harsh, patriarchal logic of Athenian law calls for her death.

“And yet this is such a funny, joyous play,” he says. “There is farcical humor, and subtle humor, and humor of language, and poetry as beautiful as any that Shakespeare ever wrote.

“Indeed, the whole play has a kind of sonata, A-B-A form,” Schvey says. “It begins in Athens, the next three acts take place in the forest, and we then return to the city. And yet, it is an Athens transformed — an Athens that has learned the lessons of the fairy world and been transfigured by the knowledge of the forest.

Midsummer is a wonderful comment on how the experience of dreaming leavens our strict rationality to create something beautiful,” Schvey says. “It’s that Nietzschean dialogue between the opposing realms of day and night, between consciousness and sleeping. In sleep, anything can happen. And does.”

Though he has directed the show three times before, Schvey adds that he has found each new production to be a unique experience.

“The challenge of directing Midsummer is to create a simple world that can please the smallest child, yet one that is layered with complexities that can still tantalize and amuse the most sophisticated adult,” Schvey says.

“The play suggests the magical beauty of a fairy tale, and combines it with the mystery of an eternally incomprehensible riddle.”

Cast and crew

The cast is led by seniors Julia Mellon and Daniel Tobin as Titania and Oberon. Juniors Marissa Barnathan and Megan Lacerenza are Hermia and Helena, with senior Eli Keehn and sophomore Peter Winfrey as Lysander and Demetrius.

Junior Artem Kreimer is Puck, the mischievous fairy who leads the various lovers astray. Senior Matthew Rosenthal is Nick Bottom, the “rude mechanical” who — after his head transformed into that of a donkey — becomes the subject of Titania’s formidable attentions.

Also featured are juniors Ari Scott and Meghan L. Kenny as Theseus and Hippolyta; senior Jonathan Levinson as Egeus; and junior Selena Lane as Philostrate, the Athenian Master of Revels.

Sets are by Mike Loui, scene shop foreman. Choreography is by Cecil Slaughter, senior lecturer in dance. Lighting is by Sean Savoie, lecturer in drama and coordinator of the PAD’s Design-Technical Theater Program.

Costumes are designed by Bonnie Kruger, professor in the practice of drama and director of the costume shop, with assistance by Diana Chu, a sophomore in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts.

Original music has been composed for the production by junior Gadi Abramowitz.

Calendar Summary

WHO: Washington University’s Performing Arts Department in Arts & Sciences

WHAT: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare; directed by Henry Schvey.

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 25 and 26; 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 27; 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, March 4 and 5; 2 p.m. Sunday, March 6

WHERE: Edison Theatre, located in the Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.

COST:$15; $10 for seniors, students and Washington University faculty and staff. Available at the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets.

INFORMATION: (314) 935-6543 or visit padarts.wustl.edu.