Shakespeare is alive and well in The Woodlands, and the evidence is now available in the Montgomery College Theatre Department’s current production of the Immortal Bard’s comedy classic, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Skillfully directed by Ellen Ketchum, the performance was highlighted by the cast’s uniformly excellent mastery of the playwright’s enduring prose. With just a month of rehearsals, the accomplishment is quite a remarkable one. Thus, as Cole Porter wrote in “Kiss Me Kate,” it’s time to “Brush up your Shakespeare!” with a trip to The Woodlands campus theater.
Set in Athens, this production is imaginatively conceived, being cleverly set in the period of the Roaring Twenties. The simple, yet elegant set (designer: Lorne Kelly, lighting: David Kerr) nicely echoes the Art Deco styles of the time, with its charming forest of lacey trees and hanging moss, backed by rising mist and a starry lavender sky. To add to the magic, there is abundant incidental music by composer, George Gershwin. The carefully selected antique recordings even included music performed with the composer himself at the keyboard. In addition, the ’20’s period costumes (designed by Danny’s Trix and Kix) feature everything from delicate fairy frocks and flashy, fringed “flapper” dresses, to saddle shoes and straw hats. The overall result is a dreamlike atmosphere for this edition of “Dream.”
This tale of royalty, lovers, fairies, and magically confused relationships is well delivered by a youthful cast that has really done its homework. Actors who can master the lengthy and poetic dialogue of Shakespearean theatre endlessly amaze me, and we have many such in this talented cast.
Chris Alford gleamed in his naval officer’s uniform, and delivered his lines with authority as the Duke. He was well matched with an exotic performance by beautifully gowned Marie Ally, as his betrothed, Hippolyta. Diminutive Morgan Warren gives us a Hermia that is a feisty and amusing powerhouse in her pursuit of the sometimes enchanted and illusive Lysander, played with outstanding command by talented Mark Radcliffe.
Throughout the performance, Mr. Radcliffe seemed to understand that dialogue must be clearly heard by the audience, as he demonstrated articulate and powerful vocal projection with an exceptional sense of the musical quality and humor in Shakespeare’s prose. His was a standout performance, and many in this talented cast (which to its credit performed without microphones) would do well to note the way in which Radcliffe thoughtfully paces the delivery of each line without rushing the dialogue.
We have a second, sometimes-confused, pair of lovers in Helena (Jennifer Alger) and Demetrius (Kyle Skarbek). Alger brings good comic timing and amusing body language to her desperation in pursuing Demetrius. There is a swashbuckling stick fight between Lysander and Demetrius, and a virtual catfight between Hermia and Helena. While there were times I wished he would turn up the volume, Mr. Skarbek shows a comic flair and swagger reminiscent of a young John Belushi.
There was plenty of magic and enchantment thanks to fine work from the frolicking fairies: Hilary Bryant, Molly Rand, Lorelei Ketcherside, Brittany Lowry, and Jennie Treese, along with very fine performances from Nick Petrillo as Oberon, the Fairy King, and Leigh Harrison as Titania, his Fairy Queen. Miss Bryant choreographed the pleasant fairy dances that even included a light-hearted chorus line, and Gershwin tunes like “Somebody Loves Me,” and “Someone to Watch Over Me” added a touch of humor to Shakespeare’s farcical love story.
Oberon devilishly encourages his Jester, Puck, (coolly played by Sarah Hatfield in a twenties-style blonde wig perfect for Joan Crawford), to make mischief by magically altering relationships for the lovers’ in the cast. In addition, Puck coyly serves as narrator and guide while the audience takes this strange and comical journey.
And there is still more fun as a group of workmen rehearse the “play within a play” to celebrate the coming wedding of the Duke. Leland Jourdan has appealing stage presence as the carpenter, while Matt Kirkpatrick (as Bottom, the weaver), and Micah Stinson (as Flute, the bellows mender) both provide riotous moments of slapstick. Kirkpatrick’s antics when transformed into a jackass, and Stinson’s hilarious “drag show,” as balloon-busted Thisbe, are not-to-be-missed. Vincent Merritt, R.J. Dennis, and Matthew Ersler round out that merry group of comically costumed thespians. Why not join them for one of this week’s performances?
Dream will be performed July 22nd and 23rd at 7:30 p.m., with one Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. July 24th. Prices: General admission- $10, Seniors- $7, Students- $5. For information call: 936-273-7000 or visit http://www.montgomery-college.com.
(The Courier 7.20.05)
(The Villager 7.21.05)