A Midsummer Night In Spring

June 12, 2010 by  
Filed under Columnists

NOTE: YpsiNews.com regrets being unable to post this as a current review during the LHS Drama Club’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

msnd2-1Discovering that the drama department of my alma mater, Lincoln High School, was presenting William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (“Your Ypsilanti Weekend” YpsiNews.com May 20, 2010) my first thought was “Hmmm, that’s quite ambitious…” After attending Friday night’s performance, I’m happy to report that Director Martin Jacob’s students did a fine job with one of Mr. Shakespeare’s most popular works.

Little has changed in the Lincoln High School auditorium since my day as a student actor. The same heavy, velvet curtain (now more gray than blue yet still keeping with school colors) still adorns the stage. It opened to reveal a simple, yet colorful & detailed, multi-level set designed by Christina Czaja. A dramatic full moon did indeed provide a feeling of “A Midsummer Night.” I much preferred this traditional set- design to others I’d heard about such as a 1970 production staged in a blank, white box.

Throughout history, directors have felt free to take their personal interpretation of AMSND and to represent that on the stage. In a Director’s Note in the program, a time-line explanation is offered to clear up any confusion as to why traditional roles such as “Theseus, Duke of Athens” is now “Theseus, CEO of Athens Corp.” It has been quite some time since I had read (was forced to read) AMSND and other Shakespeare works so I appreciated the FYI as well as the printed summary:

“The play revolves around the adventures of four young lovers, a group of amateur actors and their interactions with the fairies that inhabit a moonlit forest. The story takes place in midsummer and is a complex farce. Their romantic intrigues are confused and complicated still further by entering the forest where the King of the Fairies and his Queen preside. Other visitors to the enchanted forest are the amateur dramatists who want to rehearse their terrible but hilarious play.”

With the first laugh from the audience, I was reminded, “Oh yeah, this is a comedy!” I didn’t need the laughter of others to remind me again as I found myself chuckling often throughout the play. Sean Houston, as Demetrius, displayed great comedic timing, particularly with offstage cries of distress. Caleb Foote’s Bottom was delightful to watch (I know that doesn’t sound right but the character’s name is “Bottom!” ) and honked the best donkey bray I’ve ever heard. Victoria Stachlewitz was appropriately flighty, playful and light on her feet in her portrayal of the mischievous Puck as were the fairies of Tatiana’s Crew. Delivering her lines without any noticeable nervousness was Anna Reiter, an exchange student from Switzerland making her stage debut as Mustardseed.

There’s always a stand-out in high school productions and in this case it was Ryan Chruscial as Oberon, King of the Fairies. This young man delivered his lines without getting tangled up in the difficult Shakespearean form and had an awesome stage presence that left no doubt he was indeed portraying a king. If Mr. Chrusical is considering a future in the theater, I look forward to seeing him perform again.

It was good, but of course it wasn’t perfect. There were a few technincal drawbacks; In an attempt to create “Night” the stage seemed lit too dimly to adequately see the facial expressions of the actors and often the actor’s microphones were not on when they started speaking. But those are the type of things that get worked out before the next curtain. The cast was well-costumed by Aviva Neff and Laura Wynne with make up by Phillisha Smith and Paige Reynolds. Everyone involved seemed to be having a lot of fun – especially the audience, including me.

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