Shakespeare is one of those playwrights which I always felt like I had to grit my teeth and bear him during high school English studies, and in the past, seeing his plays performed were often a test of mental fortitude and the ability to quickly decipher rhyme, riddle, and jest and not fall behind. If old Bill could see his work being performed by the talented actors of the American Players Theatre in Spring Green, WI, I’m sure he would be quite proud of their adaptation of his famous A Midsummer Night’s Dream that I had the pleasure to attend last night.

American Players Theatre director William Brown definitely took some creative license with his direction of the play. You won’t see the typical medieval costuming here, and if it weren’t for completely unaltered 15th century text of the play that is perfectly articulated by his actors, you may have difficulty believing this was really Shakespeare. The comedy of Brown’s work comes through strongly, with the costume changes fitting the characters’ dispositions perfectly in a 21st century style that brought laughter to us, the audience, with every new entrance. The costuming of the faeries and mischievous Puck, however, is brooding and almost sinister.

Oberon (the Fairy King) is particular resplendent in his outfit, and Michael Huftile plays the role grandly. Marcus Truschinksi’s Puck is also delightful to watch. People accustomed to a more jolly and playful faun may be surprised by this Puck’s snickers of joy, creeping antics, and wild shouts as he carries out his mischief. While Shakespeare aficionados may not approve of some, or all of these deviations from the “classic,” I feel that all of Brown’s changes are a great way to introduce Shakespeare’s art to a younger generation so they will feel compelled to re-read the play later.

The set is a little awkward to get used to at first; nothing more than a slightly tilted circular platform with a ramp ringing around it and a few other platforms to enter from. It takes some getting used to guess where the actors will enter from without missing some action as your head swivels around (especially in Puck’s case), but while the set is modest, it is simplistically pretty, with transparent orbs set in each direction that are ringed with what we can assume are faery lights. Puck also makes excellent work during the confusion scene with some well-timed speaker blasts which he orchestrates like a total ham, but it works well with his character (if this Puck could be seen by the mortals sharing the stage with him, he would be pretty easy to pick out with all of his gallivanting around).

In my opinion, Carrie Coon and Jon Smoots really steal the show with their respective roles of Helena and Bottom the weaver. Helena’s monologues, first tormented, then enraged, then icy are delivered with passion, and her physical presence leaves the audience breathlessly silent waiting for her next word. Bottom really showcases Smoots’ naturally hammish performances – a great fit for him, especially his voice which is sure to make the children in the audience laugh (and it worked for me!)

If I had any qualms with the show it would be the layout of the stage and with the placement of the actors during some of the off-side dialogues. Because the audience may often find the actors in their laps as the characters clamber about the rows throughout the show (and literally, in the case of Smoots at my particular show last night!) people off to the sides may have some difficulty picking them out to watch them, especially since the costuming has been specifically set to be 21st century and not medieval. Regardless of those minor difficulties, I firmly believe that this interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be found extremely enjoyable for both Bard buffs and not, and maybe even more for those in the not category because it will be easier to settle in and not draw comparisons with previous interpretations. If you’ve never seen Shakespeare done on stage before (or fell asleep), Brown’s creation is a rollicking and exciting way to take another look at a classic work of art.

Check them out, find tickets and shows at APT’s website,