Asheville – In Asheville’s Magnetic Theatre, there are two distinctive versions of William Shakespeare’s classic about real and fairy worlds and lovers’ quests.
The spoof of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is directed by Melon Wedick, artistic director of Nemesis Theatre Co. in Asheville. The play is a joint production of Nemesis and host Magnetic. Wedick noted Nemesis produces “unconventional, urgent, and accessible” interpretations of the legendary bard’s works.
Midsummer for Haters! concludes tonight/Thursday, June 16, Friday and Saturday, June 18, at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 each. Patrons are encouraged to go to the production on back-to-back nights, as they will likely get to see each version once.
Version B is closest to Shakespeare’s original text in 1593, while version/show A has much more of a revised script and also paraphrasing by the actors, director Wedick noted. Both mix “light and dark,” with similar endings other than Puck’s fate.
“Thematically, Show B is probably the darker, more dramatic of the two iterations,” Wedick said. B has “more deeply (and unconventionally) connected lovers.”
She said show A has the “fiercer Theseus” (Molly Graves), but lighter and more comical moments. Bottom transforms from a toy shark into a human (Erin McCarson). Another pivotal character, Oberon, in A (Erin McCarson), is “startlingly compassionate and loving toward Titania (Alexander McDonald) as he strives to relieve her of the burden of the changeling boy,” Wedick explained.
Version A is extra melodramatic in its conflicts, such as verbal bickering and physical fights with pro wrestling-like stunts.
Cast on its Toes
Some lead characters are played by the same actor in both versions. Magnetic Theatre co-Executive Dir. Katie Jones portrays Hippolyta. She also handles toys that represent forest “mechanicals,” creatively using a different voice for each one.
Haven Volpe is a playful Puck, with winged ankles.
But in a major twist, director Wedick had several of the cast’s 11 actors learn different parts for versions A and B—often in gender-bending fashion — and act in both. For instance, Wedick explained, “Oberon of Show A (McCarson) plays Egeus and Bottom in Show B. Whereas the Oberon of Show B (Jon Stockdale) is Demetrius in Show A.”
There is a surprise as to which version is performed at each show. Even the actors are not alerted, until the show’s version is revealed by character Egeus in a new scene added at the very start. Others in the cast have a “scramble for costumes,” meaning they promptly get into character, Wedick said.
A Classic Plot
Wedick said that the show truly begins with the standard opening scene with Theseus and Hippolyta, who are engaged. Sticking to the conventional Shakespearean plot, Hermia is pressured to marry Demetrius instead of her beloved Lysander. So Hermia and Lysander elope and flee Athens into the forest. They goof by revealing their plans to a jealous Helena, who wishes Demetrius instead loved her.
As usual, there are mistaken identities and plot twists over Puck’s spells in the magical forest, where Oberon and Titania rule and sadistic fairies cause havoc. The make-believe forest extends down Magnetic’s center aisle, bringing the audience closer to the action.
In a prelude to the actual play, the actors take turns mentioning which scene in the classic Midsummer they like least. This relates to the show’s title, “Haters.”
Magnetic hosts a carnival-themed fundraiser for its theater next week. Magnetic Magic and Mayhem is Thursday, June 23 at 6:30 p.m. It features circus performances, games, an auction, and live music by Smooth Goose. Tickets are $50 or $40 in advance.
The Magnetic Theatre still requires patrons to show proof of recent COVID-19 vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within the prior 48 hours to attend its productions.
The Magnetic Theatre is at 375 Depot St., at the edge of the River Arts District. For show times and to buy tickets online, check out: themagnetictheatre.org.