What: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Dates: Aug. 4 to Sept. 3
When: Tues.-Sat. 8 p.m./Sat.-Sun. 2 p.m.
Where: Ross Rebagliati Park
Tickets: $35 Wed. to Sun./ $10 donation Tuesdays
"Why would you go see it here when you can see a professional production of it at Bard at the Beach in Vancouver and it’s $10 cheaper there?" The question was posed by one of my colleagues in reference to conversation about the opening of The Whistler Theatre Project’s Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream this week at Ross Rebagliati Park.
Don’t go to the Whistler production because this summer’s attendance will dictate whether or not professional theatre will carry on in Whistler. Nor because Whistler needs to diversify its economy to survive challenging winter snowfalls. Don’t go because you want to support local cast member Heather Paul (who shines brilliantly in the production) or even because you are looking to do something outside of the usual nightclub scene.
Go because the Whistler Theatre Project delivers a knockout comedy for its inaugural season. Go to laugh at the director’s Larry, Moe and Curly approach to staging. Go to listen to how a tight budget unearthed an orchestra of voices. Go to be hypnotized by the commanding performance of Bottom and to follow the wonderfully evolving character of Helena. Go for the metaphorically-steeped sets, the playful costumes, the dramatic lighting. Go for the professional theatre going experience. Go for the Dream.
The Tuesday pay-what-you-can performance packed in a sold-out crowd, as was the case for all shows during the opening week. Local talent Trish Jameson serenades waiting audiences with acoustic vibrato as part of the interchanging local lineup every Tuesday.
Get ready to dream. The lights dim to a leafy stage where a bathrobe-clad cast sings the audience a lullaby. The dream theme is everywhere: bed headboard gates, pillows piled by the dozen and Shakespeare’s iambic pentameter falling into step like a bedtime prayer.
The Bard throws us right into the thick of things: The father refusing his daughter Hermia’s plea to wed Lysander. Demetrius’s unrequited love for Hermia and Helena’s unrequited love for Demetrius. All lovers flea into the wooded chaos the fairyland reaps and the fun begins.
Multiple Jessie-Award-winning director Bill Dow orchestrated a tight-knit, swear the actors were speaking modern day English show. Under his direction, the production staged in an open-air tent in Whistler’s great outdoors delves into the whole question of waking and dreaming, the conscious and subconscious. But the to-be-or-not-to-be moments are subtle, overlaid by truckloads of slapstick humour true to 16-century staging. There is also no missing Shakespeare’s lewd jokes that plant themselves firmly in adult laughs, but fly over the heads of most audience members four feet and under. The physical comedy engaged audiences even when young audiences may not have understood the full extent of the literary work.