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Oh, what a ‘Midsummer Night’

Lantern Theater Company’s Charles McMahon on staging Shakespeare’s otherworldly comedy.

Between the disastrous love triangles, meddlesome fairies and an unfortunate incident involving a donkey head, Shakespeare didn’t exactly make “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” easy to cast. But luckily for Lantern Theater Company Artistic Director Charles McMahon, Philly had more than a couple comedic actors up to the task.

“It’s written to be very funny — it has to be very funny — but the actors have to walk this fine line between playing for laughs and the characters taking themselves very seriously,” says McMahon of the Bard’s text. “In a way, there’s nothing funnier than a teenager taking their problems very seriously — but to them, it’s life and death.”

Cue Charlotte Ford (Hermia), David Sweeny (Lysander), Lee Ann Etzold (Helena) and Bradley K. Wrenn (Demetrius) — a combination of Fringe vets and experimental theater artists with a knack for the physical comedy that McMahon wanted to bring out in this production.

But what makes it so challenging to cast is also what makes “Midsummer Night” a timeless piece of entertainment for McMahon. “Part of it is the audacity of the writer, to have these supernatural characters mingling with humans. One of the characters literally has his head transformed into a donkey head — you really can’t beat it,” he says. “And yet, this is as authentic a depiction of young love — the excesses, the foolishness of it — as you could ever hope to find.”