URI's closing show this season is Shakespeare's romantic comedy,"A Midsummer Night's Dream". Moonlight, magic and midsummer madness infect the lovers, tradesmen and fairies in this tale. It takes place in and around the Duke's palace and the forest in Athens. The plot revolves around the Duke of Athens impending marriage to Hippolyta, an Amazon warrior. It also concerns the lovers, Hermia, Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, the fairies including Oberon the King and Titania the Queen and Puck the mischievious servant of the King who wreaks havoc with the people caught in the forest and the hilarious tradesman practicing a tragic comedy for the Duke's nuptials. Director Bryna Wortman takes her 26 college students (freshmen through super seniors) on a whirlwind trip of one of Shakespeare's best known plays. It will help you escape from your current day problems into a magical world of the past.
Bryna handles the dramatic aspects of the show with ease. While Shakespeare's lengthy expostion goes on for quite awhile, she infuses the physical comedy and bawdiness to lighten the play up as it progresses. Bryna's task is made easier by Cheryl deWardener's plush set with stairs and ramps as well as the palace and forest sets flown in from above. The gorgeous costumes are by Marilyn Salvatore who uses an orange and blue theme for the lovers and a green for Oberon and light blue gown for Titania to set off her flaming red hair which is all her own real hair. The lighting by Deb Sullivan helps to set the mood for the various locations and the sound by David Roy is utilized beautifully throughout. The URI staff always does a topnotch job and this show is no exception.
The biggest scene stealer of this show is Keith Hanson, a senior from Spring Lake, NJ who plays Nick Bottom the Weaver. His over the top delivery is splendid and it's definitely needed to capture the comic essence Shakespeare planned for this show. Keith's powerful vocal prowess, facial expressions and physical comedy are perfect. His farcical antics even excell while a donkey mask is covering his face. Keith and his fellow tradesmen are a hoot in the closing scene where the lovers comically kill each other like Romeo and Juliet but with a more humorous result. He also has a dynamic singing voice which he used as the King in Cinderella earlier this season at URI. Hopefully Keith will pursue theatre once he returns to New Jersey after graduation. (His fellow comedians include Alejandro Alvarez as Snug the lion, Daniel DaCunha as Tom Snout the wall, Benjamin Dawson as Peter Quince, Kimberly Rau as Starveling, Moonshine and Richard Sliwinski as Francis Flute who is dressed in drag with blond wig as Thisbe. Hilarious.)
Francis Boyle as Demetrius, Erin Olsen as Helena, Seth Remington as Lysander and Ratkanhnha Siv as Hermia play the young lovers. They shine in their scenes especially while running through the woods. Their physical humor is excellent including pratfalls, jumping off stairs and lifting and throwing each other around. Great work in these demanding roles. Also excellent are Matthew Archambault as Oberon and Elizabeth Gatauco as Titania. His delivery is right on the money and he shows his acting depth in this huge role. She really shines in her scenes by playing them with a light comic touch while she falls madly in love with Bottom when Keith is dressed as the jackass. Wonderful work by these two seniors.
The 14 other students display their talent in this but it is the athletic skills of Patrick Cullen as mischief maker, Puck that will really grab your attention. He wears a fright wig and hardly any costume as this sprite. His prowess is shown not only when he jumps off six foot platforms but when he jumps back up on them with ease. Bryna has him walk like one of the apes in "Planet of the Apes" while running around like a whirling dervish. (Hard to believe he played Kurt for me in "The Sound of Music" in 1994.) So for an evening of a Shakespearean romp be sure to catch "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at URI.