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A Midsummer Night's Dream

a Play with Music
CATEGORY : COMEDY
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
VENUE : The New American Shakespeare Tavern [WEBSITE]
ID# 3770

SHOWING : August 20, 2010 - September 11, 2010

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

(all new production!) Directed by Andrew Houchins
$12 General Admission Preview Thursday August 19
Performances August 20, 26, 28 & September 3, 5, 9, 10, 11


Dueling fairies, enchanted woods, a love triangle that turns hexagon…. watch the hilarity unravel right before your eyes in our all-new production!

Runs in repertory with THE TAMING OF THE SHREW and AS YOU LIKE IT.


CAST & CREW LIST
Director Andrew Houchins
Music Director/Composer Mark W. Schroeder
Snug/Mustardseed Tony Brown
Helena Kelly Criss
Bottom Nicholas Faircloth
Lysander Matt Felten
Hermia Jaclyn Hoffman
Hermia Jaclyn Hofmann
Snout/Moth Bryan Lee
Theseus/Oberon Matt Nitchie
Puck/Philostrate Daniel Parvis
Hippolyta/Titania Tiffany Porter
Peter Quince Drew Reeves
Starveling/Cobweb Mark W. Schroeder
Flute/Fairy Jeffrey Stephenson
Egeus/Peaseblossom Troy Willis
Demetrius Jacob York
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production
REVIEWS

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A Little Night Laughter
by Dedalus
Thursday, September 2, 2010
4.5
Shakespeare’s “Dream” is probably his most accessible and familiar story. Theaterreview.com lists no fewer than twenty productions, three of which have my own reviews attached. I have personally been part of three separate productions, and seen at least a dozen more in venues in and out of Atlanta (including Canada’s Stratford Festival – and the less said about that Zorba-esque exercise, the better. Offa, Indeed!).

So with all that been-there seen-that potential in my expectations slot, I ventured forth upon a post-midsummer eve to witness the New American Shakespeare Tavern’s “Traditional” approach to the piece.

Okay, I’ve seen “Midsummers” set in a forest of beds-on-stilts, cast with “tag-team” Pucks, mechanicals dressed in thatch, last year’s GSF backstage-centric extravaganza, even one in which Puck wore Buddy Holly glasses and a superman shirt. For the record, it should be difficult to surprise me with this one.

Here we have a “Midsummer” with few directorial “flourishes” (a flatulent Lysander and a Jersey-Boy Peaseblossom are the major stand-outs), yet I found myself continually surprised – surprised at the depths the actors found in the characters and interactions, surprised at the passions flowing like fairy dust, surprised at the moments of tenderness and whimsy, surprised at the laughs pulled from me on lines I know far too well. I really REALLY enjoyed this production.

Let’s start with the cast. For once, the four lovers are the comic equals of the “Rude Mechanicals”. The scripted height-difference between Hermia (Jaclyn Hofmann) and Helena (Kelly Criss) is minimal (and the “big deal" made of it is funnier for that), but Jacob York’s Demetrius towers over Matt Felten’s Lysander, and a lot of comic mileage is made of that. Director Andrew Houchins has staged the forest scene with so much wit and slapstick and originality, that I (and, I daresay, everyone else in Friday’s crowd) was actually breathless with uncontrolled laughter. These four performers are so dynamic, so compelling, that they could have carried the show themselves, without the “low-brow” Mechanicals.

As to the Mechanicals themselves, Nicholas Faircloth starts out as an understated Bottom, but, as the situation becomes more unrestrained, he lets out the stops, and, by the time we get to the final scene, he’s chewing the scenery with the best of Bottoms (and the worst of Pyramuses). Drew Reeves’ Quince has some fine moments, (but at one point, he throws a hissy fit that seems a bit, well, odd), Jeffrey Stephenson is a fine and flouncy Flute, Mark Schroeder a nicely petulant Starveling, and Bryan Lee a young and eager Snout. But, it is Tony Brown’s sweetly dim Snug who is the most memorable of the lot, making one of the sweetest lions this side of Disney.

Daniel Parvis makes a nice and mischievous Puck, taking great joy in the bedlam he brings, bouncing around the stage with the energy of a pinball. I liked his moments of affection (and defiance) towards Oberon, and I loved the evident joy he took in his actions and in his words. This was one of the most poetically literate Pucks I’ve seen in a while, and Mr. Parvis proves himself (once again) a master of the language and of the character.

If Matt Nitchie and Tiffany Porter are a bit less vivid as Theseus/Oberon and Hippolyta/Titania, they still make some intriguing choices that cast nuances I’ve never seen, and elicit their share of laughs. I just wish they could have been a bit, well, bigger. After all, they are leaders of mortals and immortals, and they too often come across as merely another set of lovers.

Of course, the set is the typical Tavern Globe-front, but lighting designer Trish Harris has put together a marvelous design that takes us from day to night, from palace to forest, from glen to bower. I especially liked how she handled the “fog” scene. Keeping Demetrius and Lysander in a center hot red special, while Puck mimics their voices almost unseen in the surrounding blue. Music written by Mark Schroeder and other “live” sounds contribute their usual mood-setting ambience to the tavern experience.

So the remarkable thing about this production is that it vividly reminds us that, no matter how familiar a particular Shakespearean piece may be, creative and inspired directors and actors can make it seem new and fresh and rich with “I-never-noticed-that-before” moments. Going out on imaginative limbs can be fun and can be revealing, but not more so than simply knowing these characters so well they can move and amuse us with their fanciful story.

This is a supremely funny play, and, if you don’t catch it during this particular August “pre-peat,” definitely put it on your calendar when it has a full run next April.

It is definitely a treat to see the lovers’ plot on an equal comic footing with the “Rude Mechanical.” And a treat to see seasoned Shakespeareans at the top of their form In this production, the well of laughter truly hath no bottom!

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)

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