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William Shakespeare's
Midsummer Night’s Dream
June 2-4, 2011

The Producer’s Club

Reviewed by Arlene McKanic

The Queens Shakespeare Inc.’s giddy production of A Midsummer Night’s dream has just wrapped up its run at The Secret Theatre, their Long Island City location. Now the company’s moving into Manhattan for performances at the Producers Club on June 2 - 4th at 7 p.m.

The Secret Theatre’s done Shakespeare’s nutty, not-quite-as-wispy-as-it-seems comedy before. Last time, I believe, the cast wore pajamas. This production has an edgier and more Celtic flavor, full of gossamer, feathers and twinkling lights as well as fur loincloths, crowns made of antlers, green hair and painted faces.

For those who haven't seen it, the play concerns Hermia, who’s in love with Lysander, the man her father Egeus doesn’t want her to marry. As this is Athens back in the day - way back in the day -- this matters. If Hermia doesn’t marry her father's choice, Demetrius, she will either be put away in a convent, or be put to death. The play opens with the Duke, Theseus, telling Hermia she should obey her father, even if she can’t stand the chap he wants for her. Theseus isn’t thinking as logically as he could either, as he’s in love with Hippolyta and they’re soon to be married. In the meantime, Helena, Hermia’s BFF from childhood, is madly in love with Demetrius, who scorns her. Watching all this are the fairies, led by Oberon and Titania, who are having some problems of their own. On top of this a bunch of workingmen who wish to put on a silly play for the Duke’s nuptials also get caught up in the mess between fairies and mortals. Before we arrive at the happy ending they’ll be hilarious mix ups, all presided over by Puck, Oberon’s jolly servant.

The good and notable thing about Jonathan Emerson’s direction is that he lets us know that the principals are not folks you want to mess with. Heidi Zenz’s Hermia (she played a lovely Hippolyta in the pajamaed version a couple of years back) really, truly, deeply hates Demetrius. She bares her teeth at him, her eyes glitter with revulsion; you think she’s going to spit in his face. Thus her transition from Helena’s loving friend to a hellcat who’d scratch out her eyes is completely believable. The fairies are even more formidable. Brian Walters and Helyn Rain Messenger convey the feeling that both Oberon and Titania are used to being obeyed -- instantly. And they don’t tolerate foul-ups. Consider the scene where Puck, played by the wonderfully kinetic Emerson, mistakenly charms Lysander instead of Demetrius and Oberon goes a bit Jack Bauer on him. Notice also the way Titania has of glaring at the most dimwitted of her attending fairies, or her fury at Oberon when he suggests that she cede her serving boy to him (played sweetly by little, hobbit haired Kyrian Friedenberg).

The rest of the cast also has a jolly time misbehaving. Kathleen Fletcher is completely goofy as Helena. Lanky and wild-haired, Fletcher is perfect for the kind of physical comedy the role requires. Sajeev Pillai and Bradley LeBoeuf are both lovable dopes as Lysander and Demetrius, both when they’re “normal” and especially when they’re bewitched. Ross Pivec is intriguing as Egeus. Dressed in a conservative suit and tie, we wonder if he’s really willing to sentence his daughter to death because she won’t marry this Demetrius clown. Steven Martin is an easy going Theseus, and Emily Stokes’ dignified and pleasant Hippolyta can’t help but remind one of the newly minted Duchess of Cambridge. Stokes is far more playful in her other role as Titania’s servant, Cobweb. The working men, John E. Sims as Snout, Lee Solomon as Flute, Jessica McHugh as Snug, Patrick Mahoney as Peter Quince, Adam Gallinat as Bottom, and Sarah Pencheff as Starveling are properly ridiculous, especially Gallinat’s Bottom; what briefly happens to him in the enchanted forest outside Athens serves him right. Natasha Murphy, Sally Song, Melissa Damas and Anna Wallace-Deering round out the cast as Titania’s servants. Emerson and Joseph Sebring’s set design is simple, consisting of a few triffid like trees strung with Christmas lights. The multi-talented Messenger’s costumes are both fey and pagan and hint, like the acting, at a level of savagery. All in all, a good show.

The Producers Club| 358 West 44th Street.


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