Love and desire
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Tiffany Little Canfield
Sonnet Repertory Theatre (http://sonnetrepertorytheatre.org)
Bank Street Theatre,
Equity showcase (through
Review by David Mackler
The longstanding admonition against sharing a stage with children is a good one. But one of the pleasures of Sonnet Repertory Theatre’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is that the acting is so good, so solid and sure, that the adults are not upstaged by those admittedly delightful kids. For while it was a treat to see Lily Pilblad (Cobweb), Aleyna Bartnick (Peaseblossom), Charlotte Beede (Moth) and Talli Weiss (Mustardseed) deliver their lines, sing their song, flit on, off, and around the stage, it was Eric Martin Brown (Theseus/Oberon) and Candice McKoy (Hippolyta/Titania) who gave the play its center, its gravitas, its glow. Theseus fairly maintained order amidst the chaos Oberon caused; a look from Hippolyta spoke volumes while Titania maintained her dignity even as she fell for an ass.
The quartet of lovers were led by Sarah Price (Hermia) and Lauren Culpepper (Helena), who together and separately turned bleak despair into terrific slapstick comedy. It’s almost unseemly that their debasing themselves should be so funny, but there you are. Ross Beshear (Lysander) and Chance Carroll (Demetrius) were duly single-minded as they wooed and pursued whoever the plot directed them towards.
And as for scene stealers, there wasn’t a bigger one on stage than Michael Lluberes’ unstoppable, unquenchable Bottom. No line was too small, no joke too feeble that it wasn’t delivered with the unremitting joy of a character unashamedly pleased with himself. In the scene with Bottom and the fairies, it was a tough call to say who was the biggest kid of the bunch. Actually, each of the rude mechanicals had a scene to steal: Glenn Peters (Quince), a director whose cast won’t listen; Jeff Burchfield (Starveling), the only one who has faith in his lamp’s moonlight; John Halbeck (Snout), who can’t always walk and be a wall at the same time; Ian Merrigan (Snug), a charmingly simpleminded lion (and also a mean ukulele player); and especially Kit Williamson (Flute), who throws himself into character as Thisbe subtly, but with abandon (yes, it’s possible). Director Tiffany Little Canfield took a chance casting Emerald Angel Young, a fourth grader, as Puck, and she throws herself into the part with all the abandon of, well, a fourth grader determined to show off everything she’s got. She’ll go far.
And setting all of this off was the impressive work of Christopher Tulysewski (set designer) and Jessica Lynn Hinkle (lighting designer), who turned the faux marble black and white set into a forest. When you look up “Stage set, simple and effective magical transformation of,” this is what you’ll find. Just as impressive and effective were Hwi-won Lee’s costumes – black and red for the Duke and his court, charming dresses for the fairies, flowing and glowing for everyone in the forest.
Sonnet Rep steadfastly maintains (in the press release, anyway) that for them, no gimmicks – it is text and storytelling above all. Methinks they protest too much (a five year old as Mustardseed? a Magic 8 Ball prop?), but there’s no quarrelling with the result.
Copyright 2008 by David Mackler
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