CENTERVILLE — Perhaps one of the most well known and delightful of Shakespeare’s works, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is currently playing at Centerpoint Legacy Theatre’s Leishman Hall, directed by Marinda Maxfield. While Utah is known for its musical theatre, it is nice that Shakespeare is not just left to the folks down south. Hopefully audiences up north can give this production the attention it deserves and will spend an evening in the magic and wonder of the love and mystery of the forests outside of Athens.
Speaking of forests, the set design of this production by Darren Maxfield and Marinda Maxfield was absolutely enchanting. Walking into the Leishman Hall felt like I was walking into an enchanted forest. When working with a smaller black box space, Darren Maxfield and Marinda Maxfield smartly used height and layers to give more visuals and area for the cast to move the action to different parts of the stage to keep the aesthetic pleasing. I was so impressed with the colors and the ways that the costumes, by Stephanie Bruckman, blended in so well with the set to create a magical environment. I loved the traditional Shakespearean attire mixed with the mystical when the fairies came out in their scenes to show how the stories intertwined. My favorite costume was Titania with her beautiful fairy purple that made me wish they were selling it in the lobby. The technical elements of sound by designer Jordan Fowler and lighting also by Darren Maxfield also were built in to make this production one of my favorite technical pieces that I have seen at Centerpoint. When the sun would go down during the play, I was enthralled by the addition of stars on the backdrop and the mist in the sky that truly brought the audience with the players into the action.
Much of the story of Midsummer revolves around the play within the play and the player Bottom, in this production played enthusiastically by Gary Pimentel, who utilizes his skill and comedic timing to great effect. The players that surrounded Pimentel were absolutely delightful, and their scenes were quite a joy to watch and left me smiling each time they came on stage. For instance, Kajsa Nelson has a lovely bit as Snout where she gets to play a wall, and I am not sure I have ever seen such a lovely wall with such humor added in. Angie Alley Andrus as Snug has a moment as a “terrifying” lion that had me in stitches, and Dyson Ford as Thisbe ties with Pimentel for the best death scene this season. Savanna Forester may have been the person they coined the phrase if looks could kill for when she was playing the Moonish Moth during the play within the play.
Mitch Daley tackled the iconic role as Puck and got to recite perhaps my favorite monologue in all of Shakespeare at the end of the production, and he honored that speech so well. I also enjoyed how Marinda Maxfield directed Daley to be so amusing and lighthearted with his playful joyousness and mischievousness. After a year of stress and difficulty, this playfulness was a welcome break.
While I certainly enjoyed the performance of Helena by Katherine Tietjen, is it fair to say that Tietjen felt almost too beautiful for the role? Helena follows Demetrius, played by Donovan Crane, around trying to get him to love her rather than Hermia, played by Becca Stephens, though Demetrius is said to prefer Hermia for her beauty. However, Tietjen and Stephens were both so extremely beautiful that it was hard for me to believe that either would be preferred based on beauty.
I hope that Centerpoint will continue to do shows like Midsummer and other Shakespearean and classical pieces on their Leishman stage and may even consider doing something like this show on their main stage. While the popularity of musical theatre cannot be denied, there is joy and entertainment in the tales of the Bard, and Marinda Maxfield and her players have brought a fantastic tale to life on the Centerpoint stage with this enchanted production. It would be an ideal way to introduce a younger audience member to the wonder that is Shakespeare.