Reviewed by Tony Annicone
Trinity Rep’s current show is Shakespeare’s romantic comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It was suggested by “The Knight’s Tale” from Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” and was written between 1594 to 1596. This version is set at a 1986 Spring High School dance.
It portrays the adventures of four young lovers, a group of fairies, three adults and a nerdy drama club group. Moonlight, magic and midsummer madness infect the lovers and the fairies. The plot revolves around high school teacher Theseus’ impending marriage to the gym teacher, Hippolyta. It also concerns the lovers, Hermia loves Lysander, but is promised to Demetrius by her father. Hermia refuses to marry him so Egeus, her father complains to Theseus who then commands her to obey her father’s wishes to marry him or die. Hermia and Lysander run off together into the woods but they are followed by her friend, Helena and Demetrius whom she loves and to whom she has told about the lovers escape plan. The four of them get lost and are set upon by mischievous fairies led by the head prankster and rock singer, Puck. She wreaks havoc with everyone there. It is orchestrated by Oberon with mayhem resulting. Oberon is distracted by problems with his own lover, Titania and plays a major practical joke on her. Add in a bunch of hilarious amateur performers practicing a comic tragedy for the upcoming nuptials and you have the ingredients for the laugh a minute show that ensues. Director Tyler Dobrowsky takes his talented cast on a whirlwind trip of the Bard’s best known shows. He gives them clever shtick and pratfalls to keep you laughing merrily. Tyler also gives each one of the performers their moment to shine in their roles. It will definitely help you escape your current day problems into the magical world of the past.
One of the biggest scene stealers in this wild and crazy show is Fred Sullivan Jr. as Bottom who is turned into a jackass. His brilliant comic timing and clever antics stop the show with hilarity. Fred’s line delivery, facial expressions and physical comedy are superb. His farcical antics excel even when he wears the donkey mask. This closing scene with the amateur performers in this school play which is a tragic comic scene where the lovers kill themselves ala “Romeo and Juliet” but definitely with laughter and not pathos. The other comics are Brian McEleny as Peter Quince, the director of this skit who is pompous with his fellow cast mates. His rap number is superb and his riding of a bike to escape the donkey with everyone screaming after him is another laugh out loud moment that closes Act 1. Tim Crowe as Snug is a hoot as the Lion who roars to scare Thisbe and Pyramus in their scene. His dumb bell character is very well done. Kym Gomes as Snout, the wall and Angela Brazil as Moonlight, also win many laughs. Angela throws up in one scene that stops the show with hilarity. The other scene stealer is Jeff Church as Thisbe who dresses in drag to play the female lead in this scene with balloon boobs. His high pitched voice, facial expressions and comic line delivery keep the audience in stitches. The dying scene when he dies on top of Fred who is already dead is hilarious and has to be seen to be believed. This is Jeff’s debut at Trinity but he is adept at comedy as well as drama. I first reviewed him in “The Late Christopher Bean” back in 2010 where he played a villainous character to the hilt.
The young lovers are also wonderfully portrayed. Daniel Duque-Estrada as Lysander is oversexed and overbearing, cute blonde Becky Gibel as Hermia who has unrequited love after the magic potion, Jude Sandy as Demetrius is confused and endearing and Gwen Kingston, a beautiful strawberry blonde who wears a black wig as Helena is full of righteous indignation after both men fall in love with her. They really shine in their scenes when they try to escape from the fate of Hermia’s father. Their physical humor is excellent with pratfalls, fighting and wrestling with each other. Her strict father, Egeus is well played by Tim Crowe, demands his daughter marry Demetrius or be put to death. Mauro Hantman is terrific as he plays the two roles of Oberon and Theseus. He is commanding as Theseus while demanding obedience from his people. Mauro also delivers the goods as the King of the fairies by playing a trick on his lady love. He is dressed up like Elvis in a purple jump suit and also plays the saxophone and bass during the show. Phyllis Kay is fantastic as Titania. She wears a red wig and a red dress. Phyllis plays the role with the perfect comic touch it needs and is especially funny in the falling in love with the donkey sequence. When they wake up after having sex with cigarettes in their mouths at the start of Act 2 is fabulous. She also plays the strong willed, Hippolyta wonderfully with her butch walk and gym teacher stance. The narrator and songstress for this show is Rachael Warren as Puck. Her strong voice is heard in many a song along the way and her antics as this conniving fairy are very well done. She earns many accolades from the appreciative crowd. The show is musically directed by Esther Zabinski with Aaron Dore doing a fantastic job on the keyboards.So for a fascinating of a comic Shakespearean romp, be sure to catch “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” which celebrates Project Discovery’s 50th year of bringing over a million high school students to Trinity. My first project discovery show was “Wilson in the Promised Land” which had it’s world premiere at Trinity back in 1969.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (9 February to 24 March)
Trinity Repertory Company, 201 Washington St, Providence, RI
1(401)351-4242 or www.trinityrep.com