Thursday, November 1, 2012
Theater review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Fort Worth Community Arts Center
Good day and good e’en to you all!
FORT WORTH While A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a Shakespeare classic, the title also tends to imply “Shakespeare Overdone.” The small curse that comes with being in this business and loving theater as much as I do, Midsummer is a Shakespeare piece that I have seen more times than I care to admit and in multiple forms and fashions. Despite being the most frequently rendered Shakespearean play (next to Romeo and Juliet of course) it has a whimsical storyline and comedic simplicity. You get the treat of watching a play within a play and, I dare ask you, who doesn’t love prancing fairies and watching a woman make out with a mule? Sounds an awful lot like a soap opera, no?
Many theater companies choose this particular production to perform because it is a sure-fire seat grabber. It is simple to follow and by sheer default no will become lost in the abyss of Shakespeare’s strange “iambic penta-language” (Lord knows I love it!). Even the most apprenticed audience will enjoy the ethereal comedy that the baronial Shakespeare had intended.
Although often performed overdone and outlandish in other venues of the world, this particular version presented by the Stolen Shakespeare Guild, simply put, was without a doubt a truly lovely evening of genuinely good theater.
Upon entering the theater, at first glance one might feel a bit like a lost boy in Peter Pan’s Neverland with the undertones of birds and ducks on a bayou, the set was viscerally playful yet slightly rough around the edges. Multiple levels made for an inviting playing space with an immaculate wooden platform covered in shrubbery and rainforest roughage, sided off with homespun trees and stumps. A space created with tunnels and many angles for fairy mischief and lovers' fun.
The set was designed by Jason Morgan who also co-directed and plays the part of Bottom, the illustrious “ass” of the play. Morgan’s version of the pompous “actor to be” was enterprising and kept the audience wanting more. His counterpart and co-director, the lovely Lauren Morgan played Helena, the not so fair lover lusting after the young Demetrius. Although her character was quite crestfallen, Lauren’s performance was playful and much like her hubby counterpart. Their translation of Shakespeare’s intentions and attention to language were spot on and more than enjoyable to follow.
The pace of the show was quick and elegant with not a moment missed. Monologues never felt like monologues. Carrying that energy was Shannon Rasmussen who won my heart with a flirtatious and fire-hearted Hermia. Her entrance and execution upon realizing she had lost Lysander was adorable and roused a jolly response from the whole audience. The ping-pong chemistry was saucy and sensitive with partner Nathan Autry as Lysander who was energetic with a solid grasp of a great character. He used his space well and his transitions between being in love, being drugged and his anger towards Demetrius were clear and well rounded.
Key players who stole some well-deserved attention were Delmar Dolbier as Egeus, his opening scene set a bright tone for the play. A tip of the hat to a few of the favored mechanicals like Terry Yates as a twitter-pated Peter Quince, Zane Allen Whitney Jr. as Snug the Joiner, who had not much of a word or two in script but was animated and amusing to follow in movement and intention. He was constantly a joy to watch. I also must mention the Morgan’s choice for the melodic movement of the fairies. The fairy ladies in their billowy flowered lingerie created a lovely ethereal stage picture as they flitted and flirted about. The sprites were ever-present to all the action, adding life in all the right places and kept the audience enjoyably entranced.
Mikaela Krantz brought the show home with her ball of fire portrayal of Puck. The character Puck is not only a monologue favorite amongst budding acting youth, but is usually an in-house favorite of audience viewers. I have seen many a Puck lose their luster in the short time of show, but Krantz carried this particular one with great esteem. She was boisterous and mischievous and her use of language coupled with her spritely sliding through the set kept the tone and pace of the show alive, especially in her closing monologue. Krantz was an incredibly present actress whose choices of action were unique, quirky, and no matter what the action on stage, she kept the audience tuned in and entertained to the Midsummer dial.
Lighting is a personal all-around favorite theatrical aspect of mine and any good lighting designer will tell you, you know your design is good when the audience loves the show and does not notice when the lights change. Logan Ball executed this theory beautifully for Midsummer, setting the perfect mood of each scene with flawless transition. He even set an oversized midnight moon on the stage right wall.
The costumes of the show, by Lauren Morgan, were slightly inconsistent but popped where necessary, especially with that of the lovely Titania and Puck.
Although the cast seemed all together and supportive, a few actors lacked strength, such as the demanding Demetrius who seemed to not be in the same play as the rest. While the other lovers were energetic and rolled with the beauty of Shakespeare’s language, Demetrius, although ever-present in the fight scene with Lysander was lacking in tempo and unengaged when it came to his scenes with Helena.
Aligning the back wall were the untamed scrims and curtains that exposed actors backstage as well as tall metal posts, which proved to be distracting enough so that one couldn’t get fully lost in the world of the play.
Overall, my dear friends, to quote the play itself, “For never anything can be amiss, when simpleness and duty tender it ...”
The Stolen Shakespeare Guild provided a version of this play that was classic in nature and enjoyable in delivery. Though a few minor blemishes were afoot, the play in its entirety was simply fun. I highly recommend it to those learning the world of Shakespeare or for those who don’t wish to “think” but to merely relax and have a laugh at a truly great Shakespearean work. This cast used the beautiful language to its fullest, keeping tradition alive through simplicity and ease, and all the while truly seeming to have fun doing it.
“... I do not doubt but to hear them say, it is a sweet comedy. No more words. Away!”
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