note: entire contents copyright 2005 by Andrea Decof
Who’s putting the fun back into Shakespeare? Shakespeare Now! is, with a rollicking good production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Shakespeare’s romantic fantasy of star-crossed lovers, mischievous fairies and bumbling bumpkins. The Shakespeare Now! Theatre Company, under the able direction of Daniel Gidron, has assembled a limber and energetic cast to engage high school students and adults alike in this most engaging of Shakespeare’s comedies. The plot runs thus: Hermia loves Lysander, but is promised to Demetrius by her father. She refuses to marry him, and Dad complains to Theseus, ruler of Athens, who is himself about to take a feisty bride, Hippolyta. Theseus orders Hermia to obey her father’s wishes or die. Hermia and Lysander run off together to the woods. They are pursued by her friend Helena and Demetrius, whom she loves and to whom she has spilled the beans about the lovers’ escape plan. The four are lost in the woods and set upon by mischievous fairies, led by the young prankster Puck, and orchestrated by Oberon, the Fairy King, with mayhem resulting. Oberon is distracted by his own lover’s problems with Titania, the Fairy Queen, and plays a whopper of a practical joke on her. Stir into this mix a quartet of clueless country bumpkins readying a play for Theseus’ wedding celebration, and the slapstick comes fast and furious. Misguided lovers, raging hormones, mistaken identities, bombastic personalities and really bad play-acting all build to a mirthful and satisfying climax.
Daniel Gidron gets the action moving and the jokes flowing, making good use of physical comedy to keep the pace brisk. The actors do yeoman’s duty, doubling up on many parts and creating delightfully quirky characters, with standouts Rocky Graziano as a hyperactive, overeager Puck; Risher Reddick as Nick Bottom/ Pyramus, the biggest fool of the bunch and ham actor extraordinaire; and Erin Scanlon as Hermia, a little powerhouse of love and righteous indignation. As Helena, Joy Lamberton does a fine “woe is me” routine, rambling on endlessly about her unrequited love. Barry Abramowitz as Oberon is a stern straight man to Puck’s comedian, and as Theseus he’s a lover in over his head, casting helpless glances as he follows after his bride like a puppy. Melissa Sine as Titania is regally sensual as she leads her bands of fairies through their nightly revels; as Hippolyta, you don’t want to mess with her. Eric Hamel as Lysander and Gus Kelley as Demetrius are properly oversexed and confused. The little band of players work well together, making their scenes as sweet and funny as an old Charlie Chaplin movie.
The set is both simple and romantic, with a glowing full summer moon casting its spell of love and madness. The speckled lighting works well in the forest scenes, except atop the canopy, where the actor’s faces sometimes lost the light. The costuming is creatively done, the standout being Thisbe’s princess getup on Matthew Shawlin as Francis Flute, a sight gag that got big laughs, as did his Thisbe falsetto. Sound and music were also effective, adding a period feel to the production.
All in all this evening of Shakespeare was more fun than a barrel of monkeys. Go and see for yourself; it’s on through Nov. 22 at Mass. College of Art, and be prepared to laugh.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
Shakespeare Now! Theatre Company
Mass. College of Art
621 Huntington Ave.
Nov. 2-22, 2005