Pittsburgh Public Theater brings summertime to January with ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

By Merritt Wuchina

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Pittsburgh Public Theater

Jan. 21 — Feb. 21

O’Reilly… “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Pittsburgh Public Theater

Jan. 21 — Feb. 21

O’Reilly Theater

621 Penn Ave.

Tickets: $35-$55 and $15 for students age 26 and younger

Pitt Arts night: Jan. 22

If interested, call (412) 316-1600 or visit www.ppt.org.

It might be the middle of January, but love and laughter are blossoming in Pittsburgh.

Among an evening filled with magic, fairies, fools and lovers, who couldn’t resist spending a cold winter night under the spell of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”?

With an elaborate set design, a dynamic cast of characters and a script written by the most popular dramatist, director Ted Pappas, Pittsburgh Public Theater brings this timeless Shakespearian comedy to life starting Jan. 21.

Not all is well in the kingdom of Athens. As King Theseus plans a wedding with his captured Amazonian bride-to-be, four young lovers are torn between pressures of family obligation and infatuation and venture into the forest to pursue their desires.

Meanwhile, the king and queen of the fairies have squabbles of their own. But with the help of a trickster named Puck, comical interludes from a group of dopey actors and a series of “blind” romances, the play doesn’t miss a beat of laughter despite the seemingly disastrous situations.

The performance features a variety of actors, both old and new.

Winners of the Shakespeare Monologue & Scene Contest, seventh graders Meggie Booth and Alex Lindsay Roth, will trade roles as the First Fairy.

Lindsey Kyler, a Carnegie Mellon University graduate who will appear in the season premiere of “Rescue Me,” makes her debut performance with the Public Theater, playing Hermia.

Now in his sixth show with the Public Theater, Stephen Coleman — or “Alex,” as he prefers to use in theater — is the director of undergraduate studies at Pitt and plays both Peter Quince and Egeus.

Several actors will take on multiple roles, as well — a challenge that Coleman said he finds “fresh” and “exciting.”

He describes this year’s production as “charming,” “visually stunning” and sure to be full of surprises. While most productions only use four or five entrances for characters, “Midsummer” will include 14.

But after almost 400 years of Shakespeare, some might wonder how theater remains relevant for audiences pruned to watch DVDs and 3-D movies.

Coleman is fascinated with the constant interaction with the audience. Although he’s acted in numerous TV and film roles, including a role “Silence of the Lambs,” Coleman said he feels nothing compares to performing Shakespeare on stage.

“There is no magical relationship between the audience and the characters as what you see in a live theater performance,” he said, “especially in comedy, where you actually get to hear people, wait for them to laugh and have fun.”

Coleman said he doesn’t think the high-tech world will oust “Midsummer” any time soon, either.

“I think it will be around for another 400 years without any problem,” he said.

Despite the dense language, Coleman said he knows all audiences will be able to relate to the plot of the play.

“How many of us were in love with person A, and for some reason, somebody told us we should be in love with person B?” he asked.

The play also explores the link between our personal realities and the unknown — a theme not much different from today’s blockbuster movies.

“It’s a wonderful exploration of spirit,” Coleman said. “Our world and the fantasy world keep bumping up against each other in a very fascinating way.”

Even those with a short attention span will enjoy the performance, which lasts just slightly more than two hours.

“Ted [Pappas] has done some very nice editing. His technique is to keep something moving. He does not like ponderous productions,” Coleman said.

To those who might still feel apprehensive about jumping into Shakespeare, this comedy might be a great starting point.

“This production is very accessible,” Coleman said. “It will make what the characters and what the language is doing very, very clear.”

Pitt Arts will host a night at the O’Reilly Theater Jan. 22 for students and faculty. Students can purchase tickets for $17 at 929 William Pitt Union, and faculty can purchase them for $28.

The tickets will include transportation, a pre-show dessert reception with the director and members of the production team, and of course, a live-action evening of comedy, magic and delight.