Presented at The Painted Lady by Pointed Cap Playhouse, Girl Gang Cabarets and Theatre ARTaud, Ill Met By Moonlight is a queer, burlesque reimagining of the fanciful A Midsummer Night’s Dream—my favourite of Shakespeare’s comedies! It was the first I had ever seen and I remember the giddy, whimsical sexiness of it made quite an impression on my then pubescent psyche. With it’s bodily transformations and slyly anarchic wordplay, this magical tale of madcap rendezvous seems ideal for a gender-defying, sex-positive presentation.
The story follows two sets of lovers as they escape to the woods to find and fight for love. Their desires are upending by the interference of a faerie king seeking to prank his queen—they’re feuding, y’see—with a magic potion. Thrown into the works is a group of local “mechanicals” preparing their amateur play for royal presentation. Confusion and hilarity ensues as this king’s mischievous minion bumbles everything and all the wrong people fall in madcap love for each other.
The trickster faery, Puck, is played by Stella Kulagowski who also serves as our MC for the show. With a narrow playing area, where performers can potentially be all up in your business, she’s there to prevent any awkward mishaps. Her presence to start is inviting, but decidedly authoritative as safety and comfort are adequately considered here. The audience is actively encouraged to voice their appreciation while keeping limbs and belongings sensibly tucked away. And in the spirit of consent, you can choose to wear a lei to indicate you are fine with being interacted with during the performance.
Chy Ryan Spain (Mx. Axel Blows), Graham Conway, Aitana Gunaratne, Titus Androgynous, Kit Boulter, Sarah Marchand, Vivian Or and Steph Crothers fill out the cast of this boisterous and risqué romp. Each of them is bursting with enthusiasm and bring their own unique energy. A particular favourite of mine was Conway in his duel roles as Oberon (faery king) and Theseus (mortal Athenian king). His wild-eyed intensity offers up some of the most breathtakingly hilarious moments.
A certain familiarity with the original text is ideal, though not essential as it’s an easy plot to follow. There is ample meaning to be found in Kulagowski and Crothers thoughtful adaptation. Most obviously, pronouns have been swapped and replaced, but the cleverly defiant and purposeful changes go far beyond this practical necessity.
As someone with a deep love for this particular text, there were a handful of favourite lines I wished hadn’t been lost, but I was thoroughly impressed by how perfectly this show honours the poetry while simultaneously subverting it. Text isn’t sacred here, but it is given proper attention.
Sly Pereira’s glorious costumes are a delight! Designed for gradual, smooth removal during the burlesque sequences, they are a visual highlight of this production. And director Rouvan Silogix makes dynamic and immersive use of the narrow playing area of this potentially restrictive bar venue.
Ill Met By Moonlight conjures a rich and celebratory atmosphere of playful debauchery. If you’re feeling frisky and adventurous, this’ll be a treat!
Runs until May 19, 2019
At The Painted Lady (218 Ossington Ave.)
Visit the website for info and tickets