Last Tuesday, the Marjanishvili State Drama Theatre, from the recently war-ravaged Republic of Georgia, brought the U.S. premiere of its innovative production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the Lobero. Directed by Levan Tsuladze, this Georgian-language version of the classic comedy was a beauty, and the first sequence was particularly dazzling. The curtain opened on an old man sitting alone who quickly was joined by a group of men who formed a cluster and began to sing. A sparkling sound effect then announced the entrance of Puck (Onise Oniani), the fairy king Oberon (Nikoloz Tavadze), and two other escort fairies (Maia Katsitadze and Lela Meburishvili). They advanced to center stage pushing a large woven basket on wheels that, when opened, revealed the nude back of the gorgeous queen of fairies, Titania (Ekaterine Nijaradze). Although the English super-titles were often out of synch, the performances onstage were so intensely magical that this technical difficulty did not detract from an outstanding evening of theater.
It’s in Athens where Theseus (David Dvalishvili) would marry Hippolyta (Irma Berianidze). But before their nuptials can take place, there are complications among other young couples that must be resolved. Hermia’s father (Valeri Korshia) wants Hermia (Natela Gubenko) to marry Demetrius (Dimitri Tatishvili), but she is in love with Lysander (Irakli Cholokashvili). Another side is added to this already bizarre love triangle when the desperate Helena (Tamuna Bukhnikashvili) devotes herself to Demetrius. Fortunately, this world is enchanted, and friendly fairies come to the rescue.
Marjanishvili’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream mesmerized its American audience with its elegance. The company’s forceful acting was driven by an energetic, exaggerated style of movement that made each individual role unforgettable. The Georgian language, which follows a mixed rhythm that is both Italian and Slavic, only added to the brilliant production’s mystique. Apart from the sheer charm exhibited by this large cast of talented professionals, there also were Georgian concerns peeking through the fairyland, such as a powerful sense of injustice at discrimination against women. Chauvinist traits were ridiculed in bawdy scenes depicting gentlemen suitors hungry with lust. The Marjanishvili Theatre gave this rare “happily ever after” play of Shakespeare’s a grand production saturated with European style and sophisticated humor, and we’ve got the 2008 Lit Moon World Shakespeare Festival to thank for bringing this unusual and comely international entertainment to our city.