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A Midsummer Night’s Dream
a Comedy
by William Shakespeare

COMPANY : Gwinnett Classic Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Belfry Playhouse (inside Norcross Presbyterian Church) [WEBSITE]
ID# 5514

SHOWING : May 31, 2019 - June 09, 2019



"A Midsummer Night’s Dream" portrays the events surrounding the marriage of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta (the former queen of the Amazons). These include the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of six amateur actors (the rude mechanicals) who are controlled and manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest in which most of the play is set.

Content warning: drug use and mild adult situations are present in this production.

Director Robbie Summerour
Bottom Nicole Convis
Egeus Lee Jones
Philostrate Jeffrey Liu
Peter Quince Andrew Percher
Starveling Blair Sanders
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A Dream
by playgoer
Tuesday, June 11, 2019
When you go to see a production by a new company, you’re never quite sure what to expect. If you’re familiar with cast members or design team members, you have some idea of the typical quality of their work. If you’re familiar with the venue they’re using, you have some idea of the scope of production to expect. But if you go in not knowing what to expect, your expectations generally are low. With Gwinnett Classic Theatre’s inaugural production of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," you can raise those expectations.

From the first moments, it’s clear that director Robbie Summerour has instilled in his actors a clear understanding of the text and has encouraged them to create distinct, unique characters, aided by Jordan Hermitt’s inventive costume design. That’s not all, though; he has also ensured that they speak clearly and fluidly, giving a momentum to the production that falters only as the show moves towards its conclusion.

Given the restrictions of the venue, this is a small-scale production. Becca Parker’s set design consists of four rotating panels behind a narrow platform that tapers on either side. Furniture moves on and off as needed for individual scenes. The panels show faux marble for the start and end of the show; for the middle portion, they show the trees of a forest. André Eaton’s lighting design includes flickers of colored lights in pools on the stage to represent magical effects. It’s all simple, but effective. The only improvement might be a headband in Darci Wells’ prop design to represent Bottom’s donkey ears; the pigtails that powerhouse Nicole Convis sports almost look like they could be propped up to look like donkey ears.

The pairs of lovers populating the main portion of the plot make the biggest impact. Alex Barrella makes for a dynamically romantic Lysander, while Jimmy O’Connor’s Demetrius has a sturdy presence that melts into delightful romanticism when under a spell. Madison Cook gives a delightful valley girl spin to Helena, while Chandler Smith imparts a wry individuality to Hermia, although she could work on her diction and projection. The blocking for these characters keeps the action flowing in visually interesting ways.

Oberon (Jacob Segura) and Titania (Grace Keller Scotch), in contrast, have fairly static blocking (partly, I’m sure, due to Ms. Scotch’s scintillatingly jangly costume), with the main movement of the fairy scenes provided by the minor fairies (scuffling Jess Ford as Cobweb, graceful Marita McKee as Peaseblossom, and diminutive Ember Webb as Mustardseed), who all play double roles. Becca Twiggs, as Puck, introduces the directorial concept of drug use as a possible explanation for the more mystical elements of the story.

The enveloping storyline of the wedding of Theseus (a commanding uncredited actor) and Hippolyta (Ms. Ford again), is sparked by Lee Jones’ aggrieved Egeus and by the director’s concept of having Hippolyta played as a sullen drunk, a concept that doesn’t really work. Servants (Blair Sanders and Jeffrey Liu) add atmosphere to the opening scene, and the rude mechanicals drive the completion of the play, with Andrew Percher narrating their entertainment of "Pyramus and Thisbe." Nicole Convis as Bottom and Maddy Mclay as Flute join the double-cast fairies to enact the entertainment, with Ms. Convis giving her all as the scene-stealing Bottom.

Robbie Summerour’s sound design adds mood music, orchestrated by R. Chandler Bragg, that enhances the early scenes. While the production itself uses mobile devices in a modern-day fashion, the music has more of a traditional feel. The absence of a full, cohesive musical score for the show makes the production seem slightly incomplete. While Shakespeare’s "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" is an auspicious debut for Gwinnett Classic Theatre, featuring an array of delightful performances and concepts, the company has a ways to go to equal the pinnacle of local community theatre productions. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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