Sheerie delight

Water Sheerie

By John-Richard Thompson
Directed by Jessica Davis-Irons
AndHow! Theatre Company
Equity showcase/closed
Review by Doug DeVita

When it comes to adaptations of Shakespeare, particularly when said adaptations are produced in a garden setting on a summer’s eve at twilight, and even more particularly when the adaptation is of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, words like enchanting, delightful, charming, and magical are tossed around like candy at a Halloween party. And while they are often accurate descriptions, these words do little to convey the very real strengths or weaknesses of the production being discussed.

That said, John-Richard Thompson’s Water Sheerie, suggested by …Midsummer…, was performed in a garden setting on a perfect summer’s eve at twilight, and it was enchanting, delightful, charming, and magical. It was also a very shrewdly calculated piece of theatre, well-wrought by Thompson and skillfully directed by Jessica Davis-Irons.

Thompson sets the piece in the hill country, and he populates it with various archetypal characters who are prodded with gentle satire -- funny but never derisively derivative. He follows Shakespeare’s basic structure, and while the events of …Midsummer… are outlined, he makes the work an effervescent, hilariously original one that succeeds on its own terms.

Similarly, Davis-Irons directed with a sure hand: as always, her creativity was at the forefront, but at the service of the text. She paced the show perfectly, starting at a leisurely stroll. But as the action became more farcical, and the sun began to recede, the show became a gloriously frantic race against time, with both the plot and the natural light racing to the finish line. It was a breathtakingly funny experience, with everybody, including the author, the cast, and especially the audience, being well-served by the deliriously madcap hijinks. Adding to the fun were the simple but astute costumes (Anastasia Williams), scenic elements (Neal Wilkinson), and lighting (Owen Hughes) and, perhaps most effectively, the site-specific sound design by Jill BC Duboff.

Special kudos must also be given to a hard-working and charismatic cast -- the amount of energy they were able to summon and maintain on a hot and humid NYC midsummer’s eve was extraordinary; each performer was so attuned to their own character while simultaneously attuned to each other, the result was an ensemble performance of the highest order. Each member of the cast deserves praise: Arthur Aulisi (always an excellent choice for just about anything, it seems), Amy Brienes, Joshua Briggs, Lilah Fisher (her comic timing was expert), Alex Goldberg (who remained hilariously dignified even while prancing around in nothing but his skivvies), Rebecca Honig (a hoot), Jonathan Kells Phillips, Vin Knight (most probably the brightest dimbulb ever) and Kristen Pratt.


Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 2
Costumes: 2
Lighting/Sound: 2

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Copyright 2004 Doug DeVita