In this fantasy novel, a disastrous theater troupe specializes in Shakespeare.
In Limerick, Ireland, the Midsummer Players have been presenting Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream for 19 years. Director Terence Devlin hopes that the upcoming 20th anniversary performance will be the one that garners the hardworking, though unevenly talented, company some renown. The Players, however, don’t realize that every fey character mentioned in the famous work is obligated to attend, thanks to a devious bargain with Shakespeare himself. And among the countless productions the fey King Oberon and Queen Titania have witnessed, Devlin’s is one of the worst. Enter the real fairy Puck, who’s come via portal to the mortal world to find a mischief-maker who can infiltrate the Players and halt the show. Del Chapman, who’s just unleashed a computer virus on his employer and made his getaway in a stolen BMW, is stunned when Puck appears in the passenger seat. After causing a car crash to prove his powers, Puck explains to Del that the fairy can’t directly interfere with the Players. Despite misgivings about his acting abilities, Del agrees to ingratiate himself with the troupe and derail the performance. Of course, this chaos agent doesn’t anticipate the long-brewing complications among the actors. In this ribald fantasy, Dash (An Other Place, 2016, etc.) gifts fans of the Bard a nuanced comedy that comments heavily on the travails of monogamy. Almost all of the Players are dysfunctional couples, including Devlin and his middle-aged wife, Anna; Felix Hill and Nuala Shay; and Don Magill and Ingmar Van Dorslaer. Rising star—and Devlin’s secret lover—Kate Pummel and shy banker Diarmid Garrigan are wild cards with whom Del and Puck cause mayhem. The author spices events further by sending Diarmid to the fey realm, where nudity is unremarkable. He laments to Titania and Oberon: “In the human sphere, bodies have different meanings. There is sex in that land, and one is always aware of it.” A duality emerges in the novel, speaking both to the benefits of unfettered sex and the frustration at mortals’ preoccupation with the act.
A clever and kinky theatrical romp with a big heart.