You know you’re in for something different when a production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream begins with a knock-down-drag-out fight between Theseus (Tyler Woods) and Hippolyta (Sarah E. Mathews), the soon-to-be married couple whose wedding is central to the story. Director John Ficarra drew on his background as a fight choreographer in this kinetic version of Shakespeare’s play, grabbing hold of the audience from this opening scene and continuing to amaze them with acrobatics, music, gender-bending, and, above all, solid acting.
In Ficarra’s version, what you expected was not what you got. The two couples who get lost and enchanted in the woods were no longer male/female pairs. Lysander (Linda Jones) was a woman, fleeing the city with her fair Hermia (Sorsha Miles) because they are forbidden to marry. Bottom (Sara Moore) also became a woman, as did several of the other mechanicals. Puck (Earle Hugens) was no longer a merry prankster; he was a crude, surly immortal who was more open to threats of violence than humor. And rather than show a tranquil forest flooded with light, designer Scott Aronow created a set full of murky shadows and crumbling masonry that disoriented the lovers and provided hiding places and diving platforms, as needed.
The acting was strong, and the cast, all 22 of them, performed well. Moore as Bottom displayed a talent for physical comedy, both subtle and over-the-top. Her best scenes were with the other mechanicals (Richard Bolster, Todd Faulkner, Jo Mei, Shauna Miles and Bridgette Shaw); the group worked well as an ensemble and fed off each other’s buffoonery. Hugens managed to be both repulsive and attractive as Puck. The four lovers, Lysander (Jones), Hermia (Miles), Demetrius (Aaron Simms) and Helena (Kristin Price) had excellent chemistry, with Price especially effective as the spurned, then suddenly adored, Helena.
All the costumes, designed by Karl A. Ruckdeschel, were well-done, but the fairy costumes were truly outstanding. Avoiding the traditional, these costumes had a downtown, East Village feel that set the otherworldly characters distinctly apart from their human counterparts, while still being familiar and interesting to a younger audience. And that appears to be exactly the demographic that HoNkBarK! Productions was reaching for. And with productions like this energetic, fast-paced, clever one, they should have no problem attracting one.
Also with Neil Hellegers, Rachel Holmes, Janna Kefalas, Katie Knipp, Laura LeBleu, Alexander Merinov, Rich Renner, Sam Swartz and Mark Ungar.
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Copyright 2006 Byrne Harrison