'Midsummer Night's Dream' soars as ballet

'Midsummer Night's Dream' soars as ballet

By David Lyman • Enquirer contributor • February 12, 2011

There’s an old showbiz adage that you should always leave the audience wanting more.

It’s a great theory, but it rarely happens in real life. Too often, the show reaches an end long before the director or choreographer realizes it. Audience members fidget, check their watches and long for less.

Somewhere along the line, Victoria Morgan learned that lesson, at least when it comes to her ballet version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” being performed by the Cincinnati Ballet at the Aronoff Center this weekend.

It’s short – well under two hours – and without an ounce of dramatic fat.
And when it’s done – especially the first act – you’re left longing for more.

What a wonderful feeling.

Morgan, artistic director and CEO of the Cincinnati Ballet, has cut Shakespeare’s play to its dramatic bone. But she clearly understands precisely what makes this delicious comedy of errors tick. It’s broad, cartoonish and filled with exuberant fun.

And, following Shakespeare’s lead, it has oodles of love, passion, mistaken identity, buffoonery and then a little more love for good measure.

Morgan’s production has morphed a great deal since its 2003 premiere. Working with dramaturg Brian Isaac Phillips, artistic director of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, she has created a few new comic characters and – most important – added two actors (Billy Chace and Jessica Rothert) to help clarify Shakespeare’s wildly convoluted story.

Chace and Rothert sit in a box overlooking the stage and, at various moments during the ballet, read a few lines from the script that illuminate the onstage action. Not only is the story made clearer, but the level of hilarity – already wonderfully high – is enormously magnified.

In many ways, Morgan’s ballet feels more like two interconnected ballets rather than one. Of course, Shakespeare’s play links together three separate plots, so what’s the harm?

Act I focuses quite literally on Shakespeare’s plots; marital strife between Oberon and Titania, with generous casts of roving fairies, wood-nymphs and sprites. Then there’s Puck, the impish court jester who carelessly administers love potions to all the wrong people. And then, of course, there’s Hippolyta and Theseus, who just want love to rule the world. Oh, and did we mention the gaggle of clueless buffoons who take themselves to be actors? They’re in there, too.

Act II? It’s a giant wedding celebration, a lovefest of Herculean proportions. It’s the sort of dancey, challenging, breakneck choreography that Shakespeare himself might have relied on had the Globe Theatre had both a ballet and acting company.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a delicious hoot of a ballet. Most important, though, it’s as smart and literate as it is funny.

Likewise, it’s a massive showcase for the Cincinnati Ballet’s dancers; Cervilio Miguel Amador as Puck, a meddler who is as rascallish as he is charming; Liang Fu as a wonderfully scheming Oberon battling Sarah Hairston as an equally tough-as-nails, but ever-so-feminine Titania. As Theseus and Hippolyta, Oðulcan Borova and Janessa Touchet aren’t given the opportunity for much comedy. But they make up for it with characterizations that are generous and loving.

There are far more performances worth mentioning than space will allow. But a handful that must mentioned are Courtney Connor and Maizyalet Velázquez as Hermia and Helena, Danielle Bausinger who, as the lead sprite, is a spirited and spunky match for Amador’s Puck and Selahattin Erkan, as Bottom, who is rapidly becoming the comic face of the company.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be performed at 8 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at Procter & Gamble Hall, Aronoff Center, 650 Walnut St., Downtown; 513-621-5282; www.cballet.org.