Trinity's Midsummer treat
by Bill Rodriguez
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM. By Amanda Denhart. With Lian-Marie Holmes,
Andy MacDonald, Alex Platt, Kerrie Brown, Miriam Silverman, Andy Gaukel, Jay Bragan, and Aaron C. Andrade. At various locations throughout the state through August.
Trinity Rep Conservatory has pulled it off again, staging Shakespeare outdoors
in what could be a distracting setting but managing to rivet our attention like
we're kids at a circus.
I caught the kick-off staging of A Midsummer's Night Dream at
Waterplace Park, before a jam-packed crowd on a WaterFire evening.
Performances of the Trinity Summer Shakespeare Project will continue into
August in parks and libraries throughout the state and nearby Massachusetts.
Like the sister performance of Macbeth, which they are also doing
through the summer, the play is propelled with high-octane energy by the young
actors. But instead of sword fights and tragic torment sending characters
aswirl, Amanda Dehnert has mined the comical set-ups for every antic
opportunity. The director is also resident music director at Trinity, so this
production gets as many laughs from pop music references as from the Bard's
sense of humor.
The story line has enough material for a whole cheat book of '50s rock ballads
or country-western songs. In ancient Athens, the duke decrees that Hermia
(Lian-Marie Holmes) must marry Demetrius (Andy MacDonald), as her father has
arranged, even though she is in love with Lysander (Alex Platt). She has to do
this or choose between death or a nunnery. So Hermia flees to the forest with
her sweetie, but her erstwhile friend Helena (Kerrie Brown) informs on her to
Demetrius, who loves Hermia but is loved by Helena. All enter the forest, in
pursuit of their hearts' desire.
The dark and mysterious woods is a supernatural realm. Oberon (Jay Bragan) is
King of the Fairies, Tatiana (Miriam Silverman) is his contentious Fairy Queen,
and we find them in the midst of an argument. That prompts Oberon to play a
trick on Tatiana. He has the fairy Puck (Andy Gaukel) find a certain flower
with magical properties. With it sleeping victims can be made to fall
desperately in love with the first creature their eyes fall upon when they
awake. This not only causes Tatiana to be smitten with Bottom the weaver (Aaron
C. Andrade), who is an actor in an amateur troupe meeting in the woods, but
there is also mischief to be played on the four young lovers. Both Lysander and
Demetrius end up wooing Helena, who accuses Hermia of putting them up to the
joke. Before Oberon discovers the mistake and corrects it, everyone and
everything is as mixed up as can be.
Which is all the more entertaining for us and this cast. Since the eight
actors are playing court members and lovers as well as fairies and the
play-within-a-play troupe, much good fun is made of the logistical log jams.
Token costumes are changed on-stage, with the amplified actors chatting out of
character as they do so. This play kids acting as much as it does love and the
supernatural, so such liberties and asides to the audience are right on theme.
Musical winking and nudging happens throughout, such as when Tatiana first sees
Bottom and his donkey head and Andrade belts out Bryan Adams's "Take Me As I
Am." When Puck returns with the magical flower for the potion, it is in slow
motion to Olympics victory music. From twanged air guitar as a celebratory
comment to "Gimme Some Lovin'" at Tatiana and Oberon's reconciliation, hardly
an opportunity is overlooked to guide the story with music.
The actors hardly play second fiddle to the musical favorites. Everyone
creates plenty of stage business, and all of the play's key face-offs get fresh
renditions. Since Holmes is very short, when her Hermia gets furious at Helena
supposedly making fun of her height, it's especially funny. For her part,
Brown's exasperation as Helena, when she thinks her two swains are mocking her,
is choice. Bragan and Silverman are a good match as Oberon and Tatiana, proud
and feisty. Gaukel is a novel Puck, ironically hefty, and his basso profundo
Southern drawl as Duke Egeus is an amusing contrast. As a Pee-wee Herman-esque
Peter Quince, Platt is an entertaining sight gag as the fey leader of the
Lasting less than 90 minutes and performed without intermission, A
Midsummer Night's Dream is a whole lot of fun.