Rutgers Theater Company presents "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" April 22 to May 1, 2016

It’s one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies, typically thought of as an enchanting tale of wedding planning and mischief in the forest. Rutgers Theater Company’s production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is all of that--with an edge. The play runs from Friday, April 22, through Sunday, May 1, 2016, at the Philip J. Levin Theater.

Midsummer begins with anticipation of the wedding between Athenian duke Theseus and Amazonian queen Hippolyta, and a deadline for Hermia, the daughter of a nobleman: one month to marry Demetrius, a man she doesn’t love, rather than her would-be beau, Lysander--“a very dark opening to the play,” says guest director Lian Walden.

The young lovers escape to the forest with plans to elope, but are stymied by prankster fairies, bumbling actors rehearsing a play for the duke’s nuptials, and a rather effective love potion.

“Many people love this play because it can be a very whimsical fairy-tale production, but I started thinking about themes of oppression and liberation and the journey of going deep into the natural world, where restrictive social norms can be subverted,” Walden says.

By highlighting those darker themes, as well as dismantling expectations of role casting, Walden and the acting company--who performed Midsummer last semester on the stage of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London--are “imbuing the story with an immediate political resonance and a civil rights twist,” she says.

“With that being said, Midsummer is about love and the freedom to choose who you want to love, and that’s something that is not changed by our production,” says Walden.

The play has a “heightened sensuality” to it, Walden says, including sets made out of rope and costuming that includes boning, leather, and chains to create a world that is “tied up, including people, in moments of rigidity, juxtaposed with moments of softness and fluidity.”

“I want audiences to feel their senses really awakened, and walk away with a heightened sense of magic,” adds Walden. “I love magic more than anything. But this has a dark magic, let’s call it.”

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs from Friday, April 22, through Sunday, May 1, 2016, at the Philip J. Levin Theater. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $25 for the general public, $20 for Rutgers alumni and employees and seniors, and only $15 for students with valid ID. Philip J. Levin Theater is in the Mason Gross Performing Arts Center, 85 George Street (between Route 18 and Ryders Lane), on the Douglass Campus of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, in New Brunswick. For more information about any Mason Gross event, visit or call 848-932-7511.

This event is underwritten by the Leora M. Sies Theater Fund Foundation.

Posted April 2016.