Monday, June 27, 2016

A Midsummer Night’s Dream—Experience Theatre Project—Beaverton, OR

“…life is rounded with a sleep”

One of the Bards best plays, which is adapted, directed and original music by Alisa Stewart, is playing (outdoors) at The Round at Beaverton Central, 12600 SW Crescent St., through July 10th.  For more information, go to their site at www.experiencetheatreproject.org or call 844-387-7469.

Shakespeare’s “…Dream” is one of the loveliest fantasies every written.  It stirs in romance, adventure, comedy, status, politics, mistaken intentions, merry mix-ups and magic in a veritable quandary of a delicious feast.

The story, in short, is the mixing of oil and water and the ensuing results.  It takes place in and around the nuptial eve of the local royalty, the Duke of Athens, Theseus (Shaun Hennessy) and his lady, Hippolyta (Valerie Asbell).  They have invited to their celebration, Lysander (Matthew Sunderland) and Demetrius (John Corr), who both happened to be in love with the same woman, Hermia (Mamie Wilhelm).  This leaves Helena (Lexie Quandt) as the odd wo-man out, who happens to have the hots for Demetrius.

Meanwhile, on the home front, Nick Bottom (Michael C. Jordan) and a motley crew of tradesmen, led by Peter Quince (Shaye Eller), including Snout (Caleb Sohigian), Starveling (Meredith Ott), Snug (Elyse Hartman) and Flute (Steven Grawrock) have decided to put on a play, Romeo & Juliet, for the nobility of their fair town, on their nuptial day.

But the local Fairies (doubling from the tradesmen, and Jack Wells as Cobweb) have their own set of problems with the King, Oberon (Murren Kennedy), getting jealous because his wife, Titania (Sara Fay Goldman, also the choreographer), is showering so much attention on her new changeling-boy, that he feels she’s ignoring him.  (“Ah, Vanity, I knew you would get me in the end.”—Cyrano).

So, he has his trusted minion, Puck (Catherine Olson), spread some fairy juice on his wife’s eyes, as well as the two young, Athenian men, so that the next being they see, they will lust after.  This gets twisted around so that all the male hormones are directed toward Helena, and Oberon’s wife falls in lust with an ass…but to get the rest of that story, you’ll just have to see it.  Needless to say, all turns out as it should, and every Jack will have his Jill (and vice versa).

Shakespearean language is never easy to articulate, even for the most trained actors and, even then, open to debate as to meanings and inflections.  Do you do it in the traditional iambic pentameter, or olde English, or “conversational” style (as I learned)?  This troupe has wisely stuck to being understood and thus keeping it simple.

And, quite honestly, they do pretty well.  Goldman and Kennedy, as the royal fairies, seem to be the most proficient in speech and volume.  The lovers are also quite good as they are articulate and have captured the “fire and spirit and dew” of these lovers.  Jordan, as the ego-centric (not unlike Oberon) Bottom, was actually interacting with the audience which will endear them even more to the play.

Olson, as Puck, is a marvel!  She is absolutely the right size, look, understanding of the language and feisty spirit that the role calls for (she also has a pretty impressive background, too, in the Arts).  The tom-boy/Peter Pan (hope to see her do that one sometime) appearance is perfect for the role.  Her only drawback (mostly not her fault) is the volume.  She really needs to be amplified in some way, as she is too good not to be heard.  She is a find and I hope to see (and hear) more of her onstage.

The costumes (Carrie Anne Huneycutt) are super and really add to the success of the show.  They are simple, colorful and evoke another period.  And the original music by Stewart is beautiful and really enhances the period, feel and look of the show (unfortunately, not her fault, too, it needs amplification).  She cast the play well, kept it moving and, doing it outdoors, is a good idea for this play.  I’m not sure why she chose to have Romeo & Juliet as the tradesmen’s play instead of Pyramus and Thisbey, as I believe that would worked better, but director’s prerogative.  Also I want to give a shout-out to another pixie-looking lady, a girl named Jack, as the fairy, Cobweb, as she also has the right look and feel for this type of role, being impish, mischievous and slightly dangerous.  You, go, girl!

The biggest drawback is the fact that the designers of this space, which imitates a small Greek theatre, was obviously designed to be a performing space.  So why the hell did the planners decide to put a Max rail/train a few feet away, with the bells, whistles and hissing that go along with such a vehicle, and coming and going every few minutes!  They couldn’t build a curved wall at the back of this space that would have reflected the sound back into the performance area?!  That being said, my advice to the theatre company is that they might pull the show/actors/musicians closer to the lawn area.  Also they might try miking at least, Puck, and maybe some of the others.  And they might want to look for another space in the future where they don’t have the Max noise, patrons from near-by restaurants, planes, cars, horns, A/C in near-by building going off, etc. to disturb the production.

I recommend this show.  If you do choose to see it, please tell them Dennis sent you.