The unfamiliar spelling of the title of this very familiar play is there because the Kings County Shakespeare Company is using the text of the First Folio. But if you don't know your First Folio from your Second Quarto, fear not - all the elements were in place, and by the end, all the lovers were paired up as usual. Liz Shipman directed her actors with varying degrees of success, but when talent and direction were in sync, there was some terrific magic happening on stage.
Most smashing were the dueling ingenues, and they were so good that this was practically the Hermia and Helena show. Sherri Pullum and Renée Bucciarelli glowed, glowered, and shone as they spoke the dialogue with heartbreaking clarity, and were gorgeously funny besides. Much of the staging involved slapstick, which they handled as an extension of their characters, rather than an imposition.
Nearly as successful was Andrew Stewart-Jones's Puck. With his horns and pointed ears, this Puck reveled with evil glee at the tribulations of mortals as he moved, sinuously, among them. The surefire comedy of the Mechanicals' rehearsal was led by John Flaherty's Bottom, with Bill Roulet, Phillip Douglas, Noel Arthur, Joe Ryan, and John McCarthy giving good support. (Roulet was also exactly right as Egeus, Hermia's father.) Shipman also made magic with the Fairies (Tatiana Gomberg, Jovinna Chan, Angela Liao, Fonta Hadley, Josephine Wan, Lucie Chin, Olivia Virta, and Izzy Finkelstein), most particularly at the end when they became fireflies. It was an absurdly simple theatrical trick, but their movements combined with the lovely costumes were enchanting. And Oberon's henchmen (Eddie Boroevich, Achilles Vatrikas, and Joe Hamel) accomplished quite a lot without saying a word.
But not everything was so engaging in this forest primeval. Deborah Wright Houston's Titania was well-spoken, but there was no spark, and consequently Jon Fordham's magnificently horned Oberon was best without her, as when he and his disciples were the invisible force manipulating and maneuvering Helena, Hermia, Demetrius (Andrew Oswald), and Lysander (Cyrus Farmer) in the wood. Thesus (Chris Gonzalez Denzer) and Hippolita (Yvonne Marchese) brought the battle of the sexes to the fore by stick-fighting prior to their "nuptial hour," but to little impact.
The gorgeous costumes (by Deborah Hertzberg) were exactly right all around, and the simply appointed set (Dan Nichols) easily made the necessary scenic adjustments mostly through Nichols's lighting. Even though Joe Ryan's music was delightful, the theatre's sound was more problematic. Founder's Hall Theater is quite a sophisticated space, but someone may have gone overboard with sonic dampening. On occasion, even when all performing and directing elements were in place, everything seemed muffled.
And as for the Mechanicals' play at the end (hey Bill - it overstays
its welcome - we got the point before . . .), well, it was a shame
that Helena and Hermia couldn't be worked into it. What a crime
to have Pullum and Bucciarelli on stage, but give them nothing
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Copyright 2000 David Mackler