Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Albuquerque/Santa Fe

A Midsummer Night's Dream
New Mexico Shakespeare Festival
Review by Carole C. Sullivan

The Cast
Photo by Jason Ponic
Julia Thudium, the director of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the New Mexico Shakespeare Festival, has a clear vision for the play–it's a dream. And it's a fast-paced, unhinged party romp in the forest where everyone and everything is slightly off kilter, ribald, gender neutral, and fun. This is not a stuffy Shakespearean period piece; it lives in the mind and borrows tropes from many eras. The set is composed of brightly colored cardboard cut-outs, and the costumes are a mismatched conglomeration of prints, flowing chiffon, and glitter, with a suggestion of nudity here and there. A motley crew of befuddled actors have been let loose and are having the time of their lives. Sometimes they seem to be having a bit more fun than the audience.

The director has added a prologue/tableau to set the tone of the performance. In a silly and disjointed way, all the players and their parts are introduced by Puck. Puck's ironic devil-may-care deportment teases the audience and establishes the occasionally participatory style of the show. The play can't be said to "start" as much as we ease into the performance. This was probably the feeling at original performances in Shakespeare's time. On opening night this beginning was a bit too chaotic; first-night jitters may have gotten the better of some players.

The cast is a mixed bag of ages, sizes, sexes, races and species (The Changeling is played by a dog). Many seasoned Albuquerque professionals mix with newcomers. This also contributes to the improvisational blend of the performance. It is a truly diverse production.

Unfortunately, this means that some characters are more fully realized than others. Kudos to Amy Suman as Oberon for perfect diction and a sardonic wit. Versai Knight evidences her classical training with her well-spoken portrayal of Helena. The rude mechanicals are all on point, but special mention should be made of Vic Browder as Nick Bottom. This actor is a real "ham"! It takes some getting used to the idea that the fairies are four seniors: two women and two men. They have their moment to shine when they sing beautifully; they could have been utilized more.

Puck, played by Bridget S. Dunne, is certainly not a traditional Puck by any stretch of the imagination. Puck flits about the stage and the house with abandon, but the overall impression is a trifle heavy handed and not very much fun. Puck is the glue of the play, but this Puck seems to check-out about two-thirds of the way through. The final line of the play, so familiar to Shakespeare lovers everywhere, is thrown away.

The second act also utilizes breaking the fourth wall with singing led by cast members from the show. This is a charming addition, and the audience loved it at the performance I attended. The singing, however, goes on a bit too long. The play within the play of Pyramus and Thisbe is genuinely funny. Here, the actors and the audience all enjoy themselves. After this highlight, the play stumbles a bit as it winds slowly to the end.

The New Mexico Shakespeare Festival is growing up before our eyes. The beautiful but cumbersome performance space of the New Mexico Veterans Memorial Park is being used to greater advantage in this, the festival's fourth season. This director has many actors enter through the house, thus somewhat eliminating the problem of no wings and little backstage area. The microphones work quite well.

All in all, A Midsummer Night's Dream is a pleasant evening in the theater. It was a beautiful New Mexico evening with a slight breeze on opening night. The audience enjoyed food and drink, children ran around, and music played. Outdoor Shakespeare is a treat, and this free festival is a gift from the city to the people of New Mexico. There was a nearly full house; this is good news for the arts and theatre.

A Midsummer Night's Dream runs through July 8, 2023, at New Mexico Shakespeare Festival, New Mexico Veterans Park, 1100 Louisiana SE, Albuquerque NM. In rotation with The Comedy of Errors. Performances are Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 7:30 p.m. Free, no reservations needed. For tickets and information visit or call 505-247-8600

Directed by Julia Thudium

The Cast:
Alex Gonzales Armbrüster: Hippolyta
Drax the Wonder Dog: Changeling
Scott Bing: Mustardseed
Vic Browder: Nick Bottom
Amy Bourque: Hermia
Marc Comstock: Peter Quince
Bridget S. Dunne: Puck
Joan Erben: Cobweb
Merritt C. Glover: Theseus
Kristin Hansen: Titania Matt Heath: Egeus
Ben Jones: Snug
Versai Knight: Helena
Owen Danan Martin: Lysander
Brad Martinez: Philostrate
Doug Montoya: Tom Snout
Tait Petersen: Demetrius
Alfredo Quiroz: Francis Flute
Diane Segera: Peaseblossom
Amy Suman: Oberon
Keith Allen West: Robin Starveling