Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park has upped its costume budget lately, and the results show. Robert Pittenridge designed them for all OSP shows this summer, and his “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” work, now at the Myriad Gardens Water Stage, is downright sumptuous.
Hippolyta carries a bow and an arrow-filled quiver for much of the play, although whom she plans to shoot isn’t clear. Puck enters clad in a cloak of feathers, but he soon whips that off, so he’s bare-chested and in hairy knickers that make him resemble a satyr. Oberon, king of the fairies, is disguised as a walking, talking fen, which comes in handy when he wants to disappear in the forest.
But Puck and Oberon are nothing compared to Titania, queen of the fairies. She looks like an explosion in a costume factory. Her garment defies description, so let’s just say more feathers are involved.
The cast includes reliable OSP regulars Jon Haque as Bottom and Michael Gibbons as Theseus, duke of Athens ... although not much in this production looks Athenian.
Katherine Wortley, making her OSP debut as Helena, gives a winning performance. Helena is the most jerked-around character not under the influence of a fairy’s spell.
Wortley’s Helena grovels before Demetrius early on and is convincingly repelled by him later when she thinks he’s mocking her. Wortley is delightful in this production, and one hopes to see her more on city stages.
Addie Work, a proven fine actress I also hope to see more of, seems oddly subdued for much of the time as Hermia. The two suitors — who can be a couple of knuckleheads not worth all the fuss they cause — are played by Chris Damen and Joel Behne.
The fine actor Lane Flores gives a satisfying performance as a frenetic, sibilant Puck. Michelle Swink as Hippolyta glides expertly through the play in that costume like the Queen Mary on the Fourth of July. Leavell Javon Johnson is fine as Peter Quince.
OSP is now in its 27th season — can you believe it? — and always has relied way too heavily on recorded music, but this production includes some original music by Jamie Whitmarsh, played onstage on period-like instruments. It’s a nice touch that could be used more.
Director Clayton Guiltner has thought through and addressed every aspect of this comedy except one: the humor. “Dream” is one of Shakespeare’s best plays for a contemporary setting, but Guiltner has opted for men in tights. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, but the result is an academic slog that gives the audience little to relate to comically.
With fairies running around casting spells and wreaking havoc, “Dream” is a rather silly story, so a director can help his cause by injecting something meaningful to modern audiences into the play. The production does include a scenery-chewing death scene by Haque in the play-within-a-play and a lot of other slapstick, but it’s pretty paltry stuff.