note: entire contents copyright 2001 by Joe Coyne
Fight Choreography by Craig Handel
Stage Manager Peter Sasha Hurowitz
Assistant Stage Manager Christina Lowe
Bottom...................Aaron C. Andrade
Puck (and Meat Loaf).....Andy Gaukel
(Eight actors performing the 22 listed parts)
When I got home I looked up in my Complete Shakespeare Works (Riverside Edition) to see if, "Ladies and Gentlemen, . . . Meat Loaf!" or ". . .save a cookie for you." were in the original text and they weren't. Even Harold Bloom does not mention such a variant texts, though if he did it would have his obligatory Falstaffian involvement. Yet the lines received the best laughs of the evening: at evening's end the score was Shakespeare: many, Ad-Libs many more.
Well, what do you expect when you have eight accomplished graduate students (or recently graduated students) let loose in a park in Plainville, MA trying to maintain the standards established by the original, Almost Trinity Summer Shakespeare Project. From a parachute and a stepladder in "Twelfth Night" three summers ago to a dance based triathlon, "Midsummer, The Musical", the zaniness continues.
Two very fast moving couples struggling not to be in one place for long enough to deliver a line, flitting among the BYOC audience (Bring Your Own Chair) chased by a 230 lb crooning Puck (Andy Gaukel) (just a guess at the weight). Controlling the tempo as well as the audience is a shark skin suited Oberon (Jay Bragen). Commandeering a lawn chair as he commands the role, Oberon sits among the audience and watches the misplaced magic potion entangling the couples further. A whistle blows, the costumes change: On stage are the Peter Quince & Company Players preparing a scene from "Pyramus and Thisbe". The choreographed fights are safely pedestrian efforts and there is too much motion for motion's sake. There are benefits in quiet and in non-activity. A contrast would have helped energize the purposeful moments and created a less frenetic overall atmosphere.
Just when I almost verbalize, "Do I really want to see another "Midsummer"", the inventiveness of Amanda Dehnert and the actors create a valued participatory experience. Be careful if you sit center grass, someone may hand you a prop. Think "Ur-Midsummer" with Jonathan Larson's "Rent" meeting sitcom writer Bard (as in "Cheers" or "Mash") as they both hip-hop across the Athenian countryside toward the most happy of endings, that old wedding song, "Gimm'me Summer Loving".
Some of the eclectic music selections, mostly a Capella, did not work for metro Plainville; with 23 different locations and audiences on the travel schedule, the choice is perhaps: something for most everyone. Like starting "The Wave" at a ball game, it takes a while and once you gain the crowd in rhythmic clapping they do want more.
Many of the lines were spoken in a trot at the expense of clarity, others were screamed at a gallop with less clarity. While part of this could be the fault of fuzzy amplification, it was always less intelligible while the actors were in extreme motion.
The troupe travels throughout Southern New England and have twenty-two more shows this season (the company is also performing Macbeth at several locations). Most of their performances are at Waterfront Park in Providence but they do arrive in Menotomy Rocks Park in Arlington, MA on August 7th. Elsinore is not on this season's schedule.
If you are at all interested in having the Trinity Summer Shakespeare Project appear in your community or in your back yard next year it can be arranged through Dee Davis (401-521-1100).
For those of you with children, if you are at all fearful of their having a less than satisfactory initial Shakespearean experience, you need not worry. You will soon be driving them to drama classes along with soccer practice.