Telluride Theatre: A Midsummer Night’s Triumph

Telluride Theatre: A Midsummer Night’s Triumph

Tickets for “Dream” here. Buy now. Snooze you lose.

Colin Sullivan, Director

Colin Sullivan, Director

Directing Shakespeare is the theatrical equivalent of the Full Monty: nowhere to run; nowhere to hide. But Telluride Theatre’s executive director Colin Sullivan plunged into the thick woods of oft-quoted words and phrases with its twisting branches of double entendres, taking on no less than the Bard’s wackiest and most beloved play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“The first time I saw ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ performed, it was on a balmy summer evening in a local park near my childhood home in the Adirondacks. I was nine. I must have been taken by something that night, as I find myself standing here again, waiting in the wings for more magic,” Colin explained.

And 27 years later, Colin himself re-mixed, re-imagined that magic.

A beloved and admired actor, Colin is known for displaying major cojones on stage, always pushing his personal envelope. No big surprise, as a director, he is equally witty and wise – and characteristically edgy. Did his gamble with “Midsummer” pay off? The guy admitted to being “terrified” about his directorial debut.

In his retelling of Shakespeare’s story of mortal and immortal lovers lost in the bewitched Athenian wood of Arden, Colin’s “Dream” is simplified, yes, but not dumbed-down. His adaptations of this mischievous masterpiece turned out to be hot-blooded romp in modern dress that produced what appeared to be an unbreakable bond between public and play– very effectively and comically reinforced on occasion when actors, particularly Puck (Cat Lee-Covert), frankly ignored the fourth wall and played footsy with audience members.

In other words, Colin (ably assisted by Anna Robinson) stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the (town) park.

Opening night, the laughter that arose from the bleachers, kiddos included, in response to the collective antics of his great cast was explosive and contagious. In the 25 years of Shakespeare-in-the-Park – this year is the silver anniversary of the theatrical tradition – as a local critic for way too long, I might have to go back to the halcyon days of the Telluride Repertory Theatre to find the equal of Colin’s “Dream.”

In this production, all the diverse but essential production elements seamlessly and effectively conspired to tell the comic version of a tale of star-crossed lovers. It starts with the direction, yes, but must also include costumes (Think LA today, Melissa Trn); set (minimal and essential only, design and construction, Scott Harris); lighting (understated, surreal, shadowy, Tommy Wince); sound design (natural world to underline the action, Ethan Hale); and make-up (masterful, from elaborate and baroque as in Puck’s and Titania’s attendants to barely there modern, Hermia and Helena, Colleen Thompson).

Fair to say, a good, no, a great time was had by all. Measure for measure, Telluride Theatre’s production of “Dream” is a midsummer night’s triumph.

The undisputed star of “Dream” is Puck. Which rhymes with lots of juicy words in our language, but here, with the aforementioned Cat Lee-Covert.

Puck (Cat Lee-Covert)


Cat is a triple threat: she acts, dances, and sings (too bad, not in this show) with equal razzle-dazzle. Kids. Pets. And Cat. You don’t want to follow any of them onto a stage. The girl can’t help it: she is a scene-stealer, in this show, a shape-shifting virtuoso. As the “shrewd and knavish sprite,” a Goth Cat spoke with every part of her being – raspy croak of a voice, Groucho Marx eyebrows, rubber limbs of a contortionist, even her bare feet – to achieve an affecting blend of wacky distractions, unrepentant misbehavior, and sly intelligence, all in the service of her liege lord, Oberon, King of the Fairies.

Oberon is Mitchell Key, aka The Mishky, who once upon a long time ago, played Romeo in a Rep production. (“Romeo and Juliet” was written at the same time as “Dream” and their stories have much in common. See related post for further details here.)

Oberon (Mitchell Key)


Real life. On stage. Makes no never mind to Mishky, who enjoys being the center of attention regardless of place or occasion. And through bone-dry wit and spot-on timing, he always manages  to get his way – like his partner in crime, Cat. In “Dream” (as Telluride Theatre’s production of “Urinetown”), Mishky and Cat act as the show’s agents provocateur, seducing others to perform rash acts…

Such as falling in love with an ass – like Oberon’s wayward Queen of the Fairies, Titiana, did. Titiana is played by the beautiful and seductive Olivia Myerson. She is Oberon’s “straight man.” Her character earns her laughs through restrained responses to the lunacy happening all around her, coupled with one-liners that deliver a withering sting.



Telluride audiences first met Olivia in the local production of “Little Shop of Horrors,” where she was one of the fabulous Doo Wop Girls – along with Shellanie Steger, who plays one of Titiana’s aides-de-camp, Peachblossom. Both ladies have major chops when it comes to singing. In “Little Shop,” they got to turn it on. In “Dream,” just a tease. Next time, more please.

Puck with Faeries

Puck with Faeries

(Titiana’s other two lovely attendants were Leah Ballard as Cobweb/Spider and Elizabeth Macmillan as Mustardseed/Tree, both newcomers to Telluride Theatre.)

The theme of “Dream” – and one of the most memorable lines from the show – is this: “The course of true love never did run smooth.” (King Theseus’s reminder to Hermia that here on earth married women are happier than unmarried ones. Which opens up a can or worms we don’t want to touch.)

Once again for those who may have lost the thread, “Dream” is all about girl meets boy. Girl falls hard for boy. Girl loses boy when a naughty fairy (Puck) sprinkles love potion on the boy’s eyelids, which makes him tumble for another girl. Girl wins boy back, with a little help from magical friends. And all that happens over the course of one enchanted midsummer’s evening.

The girls and boys in “Dream,” the topsy-turvy couples are, in order:

Hermia, Sara Ciaverelli, who spins her character as a enchanting combo of slightly spoiled, sulky, willfully defiant daughter – at one notable time, redolent of Kate in “Taming of the Shrew” – and a reluctant virgin.

Hermia and Lysander

Hermia and Lysander

Hermia’s one true love is the handsome, randy, and inconstant Lysander, Carlin Power, whose commanding presence and voice suggest the man is no newcomer to the stage. Hoping to see more of him in upcoming productions.

Helena is Caroline Grace Moore, thankfully a Telluride Theatre regular and also an adept scene chewer. As Helena, Caroline gives an hilarious performance of tragic-comic self-abasement and sky-rocketing indignation when she believes her friends are ganging up to mock her. At one point Caroline actually begs her beloved Demetrius to treat her like his spaniel, crawling on all fours, saying “The more you beat me, I will fawn on you.”

Calling Mr. Grey.



Or Demetrius, as his stand in. Ewan Macmillan delivers the role with an endearing priggishness and righteous indignation. No whip; just verbal barbs.

(And displaying 50 shades, Helena/Caroline later evolves into a women of high spirit.)

“In many ways, I think this play is about the way Shakespeare’s own theatre world worked in the 1590s: patronized by the wealthy and powerful, built by the rough hands and long hours, and made real through dreams and magic. That’s the ‘Midsummer’ I’m interested in creating on the Town Park stage,” said Colin.

The success of that vision is measured in the seamless transition between the killjoy world of the Athenian court, like the steady sun, representing order; and magic and mayhem of the woods, which represents the moon side of life, inconstant, ever-changing.

The mainstay of that court is Duke Theseus, played by Ashley Boling, who has performed in every Shakespeare production in Town Park for over two decades. And it is clear this is not Ashley’s first rodeo. Whether playing a king or a fool or foolish king who comes to his senses as in ‘Dream,” of late, Ashley is a commanding presence on stage. He anchors a play with his confident delivery of the Bard’s deeply nuanced language.

Left to Right: Hippolyta, Lysander. Hermia, Egeus, Theseus, Demetrius

Left to Right: Hippolyta, Lysander. Hermia, Egeus, Theseus, Demetrius

Another Telluride Theatre (and Rep) stalwart is Peter Chadman, Hermia’s frustrated, earnest dad, Egeus, who stands in for The Establishment and in real life, is anything but. Like Ashley, speaking Shakespeare’s words seem to have become as natural as a morning cup of coffee.Though in Egeus’ mouth, the taste is bitter.

When Theseus’s betrothed, Hippolyta spits her disapproval of his treatment of the young lovers, a naturally regal Marty Langion sets the scene for a dark unfolding that thankfully and somewhat perversely, turns light and bright instead.

In “Dream,” a group of craftsmen (aka,“Rude Mechanicals”) bumble their way through a ridiculous performance of “Pyramus and Thisbe” (a story taken from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”). The Mechanicals’ play is widely considered to be Shakespeare’s light-hearted and very silly mockery of “Romeo and Juliet.”

And in Colin’s adaption, the hambone schtick and witty wordplay of the Mechanicals made everyone laugh out loud.

The Mechanicals were introduced by another newbie, Turner Kilgore, who plays Theseus’s butler, a man who manages to say a whole lot just with an imperious brow and audible sniff.

The Mechanicals are led by the sweetly addled Peter Quince, Peter Lundeen in his best and most endearing performance to date.

Peter Quince & Bottom

Peter Quince & Bottom

Simon Perkovich is Flute the Carpenter, “Dream’s” nod to the world of trans: his Thisbe needed little more than a blonde wig, a silken frock, a garland of faux flowers, and a voice adjustment to morph into an irresistible babe.

Flute & Bottom as Thisbe & Pyramus

Flute & Bottom as Thisbe & Pyramus

Dalton Metz, who won hearts and minds with his right on portrayal of the narrator in Jen Julia’s production of “The Drowsy Chaperone,” plays Snug, The Grower – and the Lion who (nearly) does in Thisbe – or actually Thisbe’s wig.

Sarah Gluckstern, Snout the Welder, plays The Wall (that separates the would-be lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe). Hard to turn a pile of bricks and mortar into an endearing cameo, but that’s exactly what Sarah does. No chinks in her performance.

Suzanne Cheavens is Robin Starveling, the Bartender, whose reputation for adept wit and clowning, on and off the page, on and off the stage, precedes her. And Suzanne, a former Rep regular, recruited by Colin for the job of playing a teetering drunk, delivered the goods in her typical wacky, wonderful style.

Lots of ink was spilled over Cat’s Puck. Dream’s other comic anchor is James Van Hooser, who plays Thisbe’s Pyramus and Bottom, the Line Cook, beloved ass of Titania. Full disclosure: when James was on stage, I found myself doubled over laughing. Imagine Jonathan Winters or Nathan Lane as a Shakespearian clown and you will get a clue as to what is was like to watch the tireless James in action, stealing the limelight whenever he stepped on the boards. James’ performance is ferocious, feisty, funny, smart. In a nutshell, Bottom is tops.

Titiana awakes; w/ Puck, Bottom and Oberon

Titiana awakes; w/ Puck, Bottom and Oberon

The Mechanical’s play-within-the-play, which comes late in the game, serves to slow down the action as Shakespeare reshuffles the “Dream’s” cards to return all the ill-sorted lovers to their correct partners and proper place in the world.

All’s well that ends well.

Oops. Wrong play.

Promise, you will emerge from Colin Sullivan breezy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” weak with laugher – and strangely moved.

photos by Clint Viebrock, who apologizes for missing some great pictures; his excuse is he was busy watching the play. And dodging Puck!

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