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Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2008

Fairies and Mortals

Dance Review

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Inthe midst of this winter of our discontent the Milwaukee Ballet’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream conjures up a magical world filled with fairies and mortals and the expressive freedom of summer—at least onstage. Based on Bruce Wells’ choreography with Felix Mendelssohn’s score, this Midsummer condenses Shakespeare’s play to one hour, 45 minutes (with intermission) while still keeping intact the storyline of three couples bewitched by magic potions and mistaken identities, all under the mischievous doings of the spritely Puck, whose devilish horns serve him well. The dreamlike atmosphere is all the more pronounced as Wells has set the entire dance in the forest of Oberon and Titania, the fairy king and queen.

Wells has kept the dance moving throughout, with a number of pas de deux as well as solos, quartets, trios and corps work, the movements dreamlike, floating in air. Even the dances for Titania and Oberon’s attendants move the story forward rather than pause the moment.

But this is clearly Puck’s show, and what a mark of perfect casting in Marc Petrocci. He moved as magically as his character, fluid in his jumps, silent in his rolls, slithery as he slinked around the stage—all with boundless energy, emphasizing the mystical nature of Lewis Folden’s hazy, multileveled forest of blues and greens. A perfect place to hide creatures of this summer’s night.

Rarely has ballet achieved such comic relief as this Midsummer production, while still retaining the grace and beauty of the dance. The straightforward storyline captured the humor of Puck bewitching Bottom with the head of a donkey while Titania awakes under a magical spell to fall in love with him (much to Oberon’s anger). Just as humorous is his charming the wrong man, Lysander, to fall in love with Helena, while Oberon charms the right man, Demetrius. The visual grappling of the two men over her is as fluid as it is funny.

Due to injury, there were key changes in several major roles. Titania and Oberon were danced by Tatiana Jouravel and David Hovhannisyan respectively, with Hermia danced by Diana Stetsura. Adding to the charm and delight of the production were the many children from the Milwaukee Ballet School as the attendant wood nymphs and fairies, as welcome as, well, a summer breeze.

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