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A Midsummer Night's Dream

a Comedy
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : Georgia Shakespeare [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Conant Performing Arts Center [WEBSITE]
ID# 3424

SHOWING : June 11, 2009 - July 31, 2009

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

When the Fairy King Oberon decides to meddle in the affairs of the foolish mortals - and immortals - that inhabit a moonlit forest, the magical potion of one little flower causes an awful lot of mayhem in Shakespeare's beloved romantic comedy.

This show contains adult innuendos. Parental discretion is recommended.


CAST & CREW LIST
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REVIEWS

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Into the Woods (Yet Again)
by playgoer
Friday, July 3, 2009
5.0
I don't have anything much to add to Dedalus' review, but I felt this production deserved a rating of 5.0. The show builds to the performance of the rude mechanicals in brisk fashion, supplying belly laughs a-plenty to cap a very enjoyable show.

I was concerned about Allison Leigh Corke before the show started. In the backstage prologue, she didn't do much of note other than thank Chris Kayser a couple of times for tea. Sarah M. Johnson was much more animated and personable before the action started, but she really didn't hold her own as Hermia once the action started. (Part of that impression, I'm sure, was due to my seating at the far edge of the audience, where I saw only the back of her head during her initial scenes.) Allison Leigh Corke, on the other hand, was splendid from the start as Helena, blending right into the high level of acting skills evident in the cast. Courtney Patterson was also wonderful in the small role of Peaseblossom, with spot-on reactions to everything happening around her, and singing a lovely lullaby. Megan McFarland did fine work too, although her role of Philostrate asked little of her other than to pose, bow profusely, and tote a toy piano in a little red wagon. (Yes, that's one of those silly, ridiculous touches that just plain work in the show.) As for everyone else in the cast -- well, read Dedalus' review.

"What fools these mortals be" came through loud and clear in the performance I saw. But don't be a foolish mortal -- go and see this terrific production! [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Into the Woods (Again)
by Dedalus
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
4.5
Shakespeare’s “Dream” is probably his most accessible and familiar story. Theaterreview.com lists no fewer than 17 productions, 2 of which have my own reviews attached (though I did see a third in my pre-Dedalus days). I have personally been part of three separate productions, and seen a half-dozen more in venues outside of Atlanta (including Canada’s Stratford Festival – and the less said about that Zorba-esque exercise, the better. Oofah, Indeed!).

And yet, this latest production by the Georgia Shakespeare summer festival makes the whole familiar trifle seem fresh and new.

Still, this will be a difficult production to describe, because so many of the tactics and ideas are, on the surface, silly and ridiculous and absurd. Yet, through some magical June alchemy, it all comes together and works like, well, like a dream.

As we enter Oglethorpe’s Conant Arts Center, we are met with a cluttered and mundane backstage playing area. Dressing Room tables fight with cast-off props and electrical equipment for space. We are, firmly and resolutely, in a contemporary theatre, not a forest, not an Athenian palace, not a Shakespearean “Wooden O.” Headsetted techies test lighting cues, stage managers sweep the floor, and actors warm up. An actress is called forth to read a curtain speech, the first cue is called, and we’re off.

As if by magic, the playing space clutter is silently whisked away, the lights transform the area, and we’re off in a world created by our imaginations.

This is the perfect way to start this story. Let’s be honest here – we’re dealing with contrived historical plot tropes, with magical illusions, with fairies and sprites. Can any realistic approach hope to match the world our imaginations can build when left to their own devices? Once the production has established that we’re in a theatrical arena, that the players trust us to “fill in the blanks,” they can do just about anything.

And that’s exactly what they do. Stiff-collared Jacobean costumes are quickly discarded (for no reason that I could discern) and the lovers are off to frolic (chastely) in their underwear. Workers in modern coveralls pop out of laundry baskets to rehearse their play. The king and queen of the fairies float over the entire stage, covering miles of real estate without taking a step under their own power. (Kudos for almost-silent casters!) Office chairs turn into, well, I’m not sure what they turn into, but in my mind’s eye, they let the lovers roll over hill and dale, floating unrestrained, powered only by their passions that change as easily as an office chair rolls. The stage and all the space above it are soon filled with running and rolling, flying and floating, fairies and lovers and dreamers.

And an energetic (and vaguely priapic) Puck prounces about like a pinball in heat (why walk when he can leap!).

Unlike the Tavern’s current (and unnamed) excursion into the ridiculous, this production embraces the silly and absurd with a child’s giddy fervor, not forgetting that a sense of humor and a sense of human are needed to make it work. This is ridiculousness that is actually funny, that uses bits and schtick with abandon, but that grounds it all in honest human emotion. This is ridiculousness that truly appeals to the imagination, that recognizes that there are no “shortcuts” to the funny-bone.

If this production’s Hermia starts out as blandly ineffective, not allowing her voice to rise above a barely discernible mushmouth mumble, it’s really the only weak spot in the cast, and, once the lovers roll into the forest, she finds her stride and energy. The Kincaids (Mark and Tess) imbue the older couples (Theseus and Hippolyta, Oberon and Titania) with a comfortable familiarity that underscores their bickering with a real sense of connection. Joe Knezevich and Daniel May give Lysander and Demetrius a maturity of demeanor that sets off nicely an immaturity of action. And, as Helena, Allison Corke is a revelation, a red-headed dynamo who commands the stage from her first entrance, using the character’s sulkiness more as a weapon than as a character trait. This is a Helena truly deserving the combined affection of the fairy kingdom and their drug-addled Athenian dupes.

But, as usual, it is the Rude Mechanicals who are the comedic backbone of this production. Chris Kayser’s Bottom is a work of hayseed art, a prancing, braying force of nature not afraid to go out on the most precarious director’s whim for a laugh. No matter what sort of silliness is practiced on him by Puck, Oberon, and production director John Dillon, he remains, at bottom, Bottom. He is quite ably matched by Neal Ghant’s cigarette-chewing gruff and manly Flute, by Chris Ensweiler’s officiously toadying Quince, by Tim McDonough’s stout and wall-like Snout, and by the gentle purring of Brian Harrison’s Snug (as in “comfortably snug as a bug”). And, as usual, the final “Pyramus and Thisby” exercise in excess incompetence elicits guffaws and snorts from the audience, and provides even more comic invention than I’m used to seeing in this sequence.

Klimchak’s percussion-centric score (played by all the cast), sets the moods marvelously, Mr. Dillon directs his players at a brisk (but not too breathless) pace, the backstage set morphs into whatever our imaginations want it to be, and the cast tackles Shakespeare’s familiar lines with gusto and (after the first scene) energetic precision.**

This is, indeed, a “Dream” well-met by moonlight, and one from which it’s a bit of a shock to wake for that mundane commute home.

It’s a marvelous start to what promises to be a dream of a summer season at Oglethorpe.

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

**Was it my imagination, or did Michael Bradley Cohen’s buff and energetic Puck actually drop the “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” line? There were some nice edits in the script (not really starving for Starveling, if you catch my drift), but this one seems odd.

By the way, if, in your nocturnal sylvan wanderings, someone with a snout should offer you directions, just say “No!”


[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
Cuts? by George Spelvin
I heard part of the 'mortals' line, but thinking back it was covered by something, either actor sounds or music.
GS


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