note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Beverly Creasey
SHAKESPEARE NOW! takes Shakespeare into schools and, having seen their hour-long version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" I know why it appeals to kids: Lots of action, lots of comedy, and an energetic young cast who create an immediate rapport with the audience. This summer they are bringing a full length version of this comedy to the New Rep Theatre in Newton --- with a different cast --- and it's not just a longer copy of the short version --- although the director is the same.
Dan Kelly has a wildly inventive imagination, so the powerful King of the Fairies mindmelds his instruction to Puck, a la Mr. Spock on StarTrek, and Egeus holds up a NSYNC cd to illustrate the "trifles" his daughter has received from Demetrius. The first rehearsal of the homespun play-within-a-play owes more to "Waiting for Guffman" than to traditional Shakespeare, but the actual "performance" the mechanicals put together is sheer delight (With Thisbe stealing Pyramus' thunder in the 'death throws' department!).
Kelly even energizes the Hippolyta-Theseus introduction by having Linda Lowy side with the young lovers and vent her anger in a surprising slap in the face to Theseus. Gregory Stuart is the dashing Theseus --- and a headstrong Oberon to Lowy's kittenish Titania. Gwen Larson stands out as his fairy emissary Puck, adorned in hip fairy attire by Liz Perlman (assisted by Lucinda Davis).
Most productions leave you wanting more scenes with the bumbling mechanicals, but Kelly's young Athenians light up the stage with their vitality and charm. Sayra Player gives a luminous performance as the spurned Helena, huffing and puffing and fuming with frustration. Player makes her churlishness an asset, she's so deliciously naive. Patrick Zeller and Shelley Bolman are adorable as the squabbling rivals for the hand of Hermia (Linda Tsang in a spunky, winning performance). Zeller struts like a peacock --- his pulsing pects are reason enough to see the play --- and Bolman fusses like a patrician.
Kevin Groppe makes his irritating Bottom sweetly sympathetic in the 'restoration' scene and in the play-within-a-play. John Boller, Curts Klump, Timothy Foley, Jacquelyn Therieu and Neil Salon round out the hardhands...almost breaking your heart with earnestness in that entertainment.
Kelly has mined some nifty shtick with the "lanthorn", and Kelly's children expertly make up the remaining fairy brood in winsome petal headgear or festooned with feathers, ribbons and leaves which catch Bradford J. Lowery's lights as they cavort and frug in choreography by Pam Shapiro. SHAKESPEARE NOW! makes "Dream" both intelligent and entertaining. Don't miss it.