[Sidebar] July 12 - 19, 2001
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Sweet Dream

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 amateur troupe.

Lasting less than 90 minutes and performed without intermission, A Midsummer Night's Dream is a whole lot of fun.

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