“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a supreme example of that what Ballet Idaho does best: tell magical stories that mix theatrical humor with clean, neoclassical style. That’s the calling card of Artistic Director Peter Anastos, who is a master of staging story ballets with a comic twist.
His take on William Shakespeare’s play streamlines the story of two pairs of lovers who stumble into the world of warring fairies in an enchanted forest. Anastos simplified the love interests and Ansatos omitted the sub story of the Duke Theseus and his Amazonian wife to be Hippolyta that in the play runs parallel to Titania and Oberon’s love-feud. However, he does bring them into the proceedings in the finale grand wedding scene.
The company looked strong at the close of its seventh season and danced beautifully throughout the evening.
Phyllis Rothwell Affrunti and Andrew Taft led a fairy company of dozens of academy students as Titania and Oberon, the fairy queen and king Their squabble over who has control of a magical changeling child spills over into the human world when Oberon’s minion Puck – delightfully performed by an energetic and impish Daniel Ojeda – wreaks havoc with a magical love potion.
Ojeda and Taft both have dynamic presence on stage and a natural feel for comedy and made an fun pair to watch. Ojeda was particularly funny as he taunted the Mechanicals and when he tries to repair the lovers relationships.
It all started when Oberon wants to cast a spell to make Titania fall in love with a vile creature to get his revenge. He sends Puck to find a magical flower that when sprinkled into a person’s eyes makes them fall in love with the first creature they see. It works on Titania, who falls in love a donkey. Actually it’s Bottom a human Puck turned into a donkey.
Madeline Bay and John Frazer as Helena and Demetrius, and Jessica Sulikowski as Hermia and Graham Gobeille as Lysander were perfectly cast, and well matched partners, able to find the funny but still evoke the tenderness of romantic – and tragic – love.
The Mechanicals – the hapless towns folk who fall prey to fairy magic – had more than a few funny moments, especially Ethan Schweitzer-Gaslin as Bottom/Donkey, Titania’s target of affection. He’s a wonderful addition to the company this season. He brings as dynamic technique and effervescent stage presence.
The production also offered a preview of next season’s company lineup with the announcement that principle dancer Angle Napier Gibson retired from the company and Elizabeth Keller and Adrienne Kerr both will move into principle positions.
Anastos paid tribute to Gibson at the end of the night. She was one of his first season hires when he took over the company in 2008 and has danced roles from Sugar Plum on “The Nutcracker” to Lilac Fairy in “The Sleeping Beauty.”
Kerr has danced with the company since 2010 doing roles such as Black Swan in “Swan Lake” and Kitri is “Don Quixote.” Keller, formerly of the Trey McIntyre Project, joined the company this season and made her company debut as Sugar Plum Fairy in “The Nutcracker.” The two woman shared the role of Hippolyta in the grand pas de deux role for the run.
Kerr and Justin Hughes performed the grand pas Saturday night and made a beautiful pair. More comfortable with roles of vixens and spitfires, it will be fun to watch Kerr blossom into a princess, fairy queen.
Anastos’ all white wedding scene was a glittering affair that gives a slight wink to Balanchine’s “Nutcracker” Snow Scene. In fact, Anastos’ choreography often pays witty homage to the great masters of ballet, which makes it doubly fun to watch.