Teatro en Miami Studio kicked off TEMFest, its fourth annual theater festival, with Solsticio (Solstice), an entertaining and often hilarious version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Written and directed by Ernesto García, this Spanish-language version takes its inspiration from the Bard in terms of storyline, but García recasts the language into his own lyrical voice. Thankfully, he also loses the archaic language for a more contemporary but poetic parlance.
Solsticio, a co-production of Teatro in Miami Studio and the Miami Dade County Auditorium, is a farcical romp through a series of mischievous deeds and mishaps. Hermia (Samantha Nápoles) who is in love with Lisandro (Javier Cruz) must marry Demetrio (Carlos Bueno) or choose between the cloistered life of a nun or death. Helena (Katherine Pérez) is tormented by her unreciprocated love for Demetrio.
Meanwhile in the enchanted forest, Oberón, King of the Fairies (Christian Ocón) seeks to humiliate his estranged queen Titania (Simone Balmaseda) by ordering his loyal servant Robin (Ángel Lucena) to sprinkle magical drops into Titania’s eyes, so that when she awakes, she will fall in love with a forest animal.
The young lovers make their way to the forest, the magical drops fly and all sorts of farcical madness ensues.
García strikes an interesting balance between the magic of Shakespeare’s world and the quirkiness of the Magic City. For example, instead of Egeus, Hermia’s domineering father, García has created Eladia, a loud-mouthed, cantankerous, pistol-packing Cuban grandma who insists on the marriage between Hermia and Demetrio. The play is also bookended by García’s original music. These timba-infused salsa tunes and a few other musical moments within the play ignite Solsticio with a vibe that is unmistakably Miami — all of this without diluting the essence of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Pérez’s portrayal of Helena, a girl bewildered by a sudden preponderance of suitors, garners a lot of laughs. As Hermia, Nápoles briefly breaks into an aria that reveals a gorgeous singing voice. In fact, the performances of this large 18-member cast are surprisingly consistent for its size. The stars of the show, however, are Oberón, Titania and Robin.
Ocón and Balmaseda both have commanding and magnetic stage presences. As the queen enamored of an ass, Balmaseda and her sexy fairy sidekicks (Daniella Rodríguez and Monica Rodríguez) create some high camp fun. Anniamary Martínez is a riot as Chucho, the unsuspecting target of the queen’s affection.
Donning dark eye makeup and geometrical tattoos on his shaved head, the muscular, but agile Lucena makes for a refreshingly unconventional Robin. The face paint and his costume’s neon green accents also give him an extraterrestrial vibe as this enigmatic character mischievously leaps, lunges and spins around the stage.
As the bewitched lovers awake from their slumber and the six hackneyed actors put on their play for the wedding ceremony, we don’t doubt that we’ve just seen a rousing rendition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But weren’t the actors dancing salsa and singing, “I love you Miami” at the end, or was it all just a dream?