Delightful Midsummer Night’s Dream at Trinity

DSC_2376I love seeing Shakespeare, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream is by far my favorite of all of the Bard’s pieces. If there’s a production of it nearby, I have to attend — including 20 years ago when Trinity Rep performed it. As with most Shakespeare I’ve caught at Trinity Rep, the production stayed with me. Fast forward 20 years and I’m watching Midsummer as a different person. Twenty years ago I was graduating high school, with dreams of going to college for theater performance, and now I’m a self-proclaimed theater nerd who booked a Project Discovery performance for her students. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see this show before my students, and now that I’ve seen this performance, I’m ready to book another set of tickets because I have to see this with my son.

The second you walk into the Chace theater, you know that this is a different production. Michael McGarty’s set is all-inclusive with foil streamers reminiscent of what you would see at a high school dance, handmade flowers, gymnasium lights and a Senior Prom banner letting you know it is 1986. And if you’re paying attention, you’ll notice some of the ushers have gotten into the act and are decked out in their ’80s finest. The lobby has a Prom selfie station, which is wildly fun to participate in. (I attended with my best friend, and we never miss an opportunity for a silly shot!) The play opens with Theseus and Hippolyta, however, at Trinity they are two teachers (played superbly by Mauro Hantman and Phyllis Kay). We then meet the cast in a fun romp using yearbook superlatives, which is a nice way to acclimate the audience with Tyler Dubrowsky’s vision, and sets the tone for the evening. Oh, and did I mention this is done to the backdrop of Rachel Warren’s fabulous voice belting out an ’80s tune?

Tyler Dubrowsky does a stellar job directing both Trinity veterans and newer faces. When you attend a show that features Trinity heavy-hitters like Rachel Warren, Maura Hantman, Phyllis Kay, Timothy Crowe, Angela Brazil and Fred Sullivan Jr., you know you’re about to watch something special. Dubrowsky’s skillful directing job ensures that this show feels like an ensemble coming together to tell a story, and every player is on equal footing. Dubrowsky also does a delightful job with the young cast members, who receive a wonderful experience working alongside these adults. The fairies are the “freshmen” of the show, and the cast did a wonderful job.  (I saw The Ghostbusters cast and each and every one of them was simply charming!)

Every time I see Angela Brazil onstage, I assume she will not be able to top her previous performances. From Nickel and Dimed to last season’s To Kill a Mockingbird, I always love seeing her perform. However, her rendition of Robin Starveling steals parts of this show, and normally this is not a role you tend to remember when leaving the theater. She had me in stitches!   

Rachel Warren made a perfect Bowie-inspired Puck and not only lent her vocals, but did the majority of the night on skates! She’s a true gem of Trinity’s acting company. Phyllis Kay was divine as Tatiana, Mauro Hantman’s Oberon was too funny not to witness, Brian McEleny as Peter Quince trying to reign in Fred Sullivan Jr.’s Peter Bottom was a treat for Trinity theatergoers, and if I haven’t convinced you yet that this show was great, go see it to witness Timothy Crowe as Snug. You’ll thank me later. And the four lovers were perfectly matched. In particular, when Jude Sandy’s Demetrious is transformed, it is a brilliant piece of acting to witness. Gwen Kingston tugged at our heartstrings as Helena, Rebecca Gibel’s Hermia was just about the funniest I have seen, and Daniel Duque-Estrada took the role of Lysander and put some backbone into it!  

This is Shakespeare the way it was supposed to be performed. Sure we listen to Cyndi Lauper and Puck looks like a David Bowie groupie, but Dubrowsky turned us theatergoers into the Groundlings of yesteryear. We’re not watching the show and laughing and clapping; we are literally hollering out our delight during various scenes of the show. Now I know some of you are thinking, “Yeah, Trinity breaks that fourth wall sometimes, big deal.” I am telling you, it is more than the actors jumping into aisles or the nod to the Trinity tradition of curtain calls. I have never seen Shakespeare where the actors can’t get through monologues because the audience is literally screaming with delight. I can’t wait to go back. I’m not only bringing a group of my students as part of the 50th anniversary of Project Discovery, but this definitely has to be my son’s first full Shakespearean show. If there ever is a show that will get young people excited about Shakespeare, this is it!

A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs until March 24. You can order online at trinityrep.com, or call 401-351-4242.  

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