SHAKESPEARE IN HOLLYWOODby Ken Ludwig
MainStage Irving-Las Colinas
Directed by Harry R. Friedman
Scene Design – Ellen Mizener
Lighting Design – Sam Nance
Costume Design – Michael Robinson, Dallas Costume Shoppe
Properties – Dawn Blasingame
Sound Design – Jeff Mizener
Travis Ponikiewski – Daryl
Rick Powers – Dick Powell
Steve Schreur – Jack Warner
Bolt Harvey – Jimmy Cagney
Clayton Cunningham – Joe E. Brown
Nancy Friedman – Louella Parsons
Lindsay Hayward – Lydia Lansing
Jason Kane – Max Reinhardt
Shane Hamlin – Oberon
Lori Jones – Olivia Darnell
Jill Ethridge – Puck
Craig Boleman – Will Hays
Anna Boyd – Company
Chris Phipps – Company
Jordan Pokladnik - Company
Reviewed Performance: 5/31/2014
Reviewed by Angela Newby, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The play is a comedy inspired by the 1934 filming of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that starred James Cagney, Mickey Rooney and Olivia de Havilland. In Ludwig’s play, however, the real Oberon and Puck arrive on the movie set by magic and are enthralled by the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. Suddenly, they are thrown into playing themselves and the highjinks begin.
Originally commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company, Shakespeare in Hollywood had its world premiere in 2003 at the Arena Stage in Washington D.C. and won the Helen Hayes award for Best New Play of the Year.
Entering the theater, the scene was set for Hollywood, 1934, with an old-fashion radio microphone, jazzy music, and the movie’s debut ready to begin. The sets, designed by Ellen Doyle Mizener, were magnificent in this production and the trees are so lifelike. From the forest to the mansion scenes, each and every element was thought out to help the audience transform between the late 1600’s and the 1930’s. Dawn Blasingame’s property design worked well within the sets to give continuity. Attention to detail was out of this world, such as Warner Brother’s insignia being plastered not only on the stage set but also on the license plate of the bike that Puck rides out.
Michael Robinson of the Dallas Costume Shoppe was kept busy designing for this quick moving play, easily moving between two time periods. The Elizabethan-era outfits were beautiful and brought the audience to classical Shakespeare. The 1930 faire was just as well thought out, each actor dressed to help play up the personality of their character. This was especially true for Max, the director, who is always seen in his three piece suit with a handkerchief ready to wipe his brow.
Lighting Design by Sam Nance was one of the highlights of the show. From the use of strobe lights during the opening to reenact paparazzi to shades of red to signify love, each of these two elements were heightened and helped set the tone of the production. Spotlights were used to help separate locations onstage. Another insight from Nance was the inclusion of using some lighting while sets were being changed to continue to performance in the “darkened” theater to help transition the play.
Jeff Mizener, in designing sound, carefully chose not only time period-appropriate music, but helped lighten the play with his effects. From the “er-er-er” after the magic is released to the actual ringing telephone, the sounds will surprise and make you jump from your seat. Certain sounds further enhance a scene’s tone, such as the consistent thunder that helps show when Oberon is upset. Jeff Mizener added a depth to the performance that took the audience to the next level.
Director Harry R. Friedman did a fabulous job with Shakespeare in Hollywood. The cast worked well together and played off each other as though they have known each other for years. Be careful not to miss the action happening beyond the main stage; there are funny actions in these side areas. The cast performed as a team and the Friedman’s direction allowed each of them to take ownership of the stage.
Nancy Friedman as Louella Parsons, a movie gossip columnist and radio personality of the day, had a wit that led the audience to truly understand the press during the time period. Friedman had huge facial expressions but continually used a half-open, wide smile to show her character’s “press face.” Her high-pitched voice led to the true personality of Parsons. Friedman excelled in this role with eyes that shone with the joy and glamour of Hollywood in 1934.
The play’s plot is on the real Oberon and Puck being transformed into this 1934 movie set. Both actors worked hard to split their character’s personality to move easily between the two worlds of the past and present.
Shane Hamlin’s Oberon had an infectious laugh and was AMAZING in this role. Hamlin knew how to use vocal inflection to set the tone and mood of each scene. Though his self-assured stance he proved his dominance on stage. Hamlin never once lost which character he was playing and constantly used facial expressions such as widened eyes, smiling up to his eyes, and a shake of his head to show joy. Oberon faces the issue of losing his love, and Hamlin easily and readily moved from a powerful stance to a lost soul through his grief-stricken eyes and visible, downcast stance. Well done!
Jill Ethridge playing Puck was enchanting. She was light on her feet and her quick movements just like a fairy. Ethridge had deliberate movements, and while she was light and quick, Ethridge easily moved to a loud stomp and slow movements when needed. She also had a constant smirk on her face and a starry-gazed look when learning all things new in 1934 Hollywood. Ethridge excelled in this role.
Max Reinhardt is the director of the film, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Jason Kane was superb in the role. From his Austrian accent that never faltered to his face becoming red with anger and frustration, Kane became Reinhardt. Kane constantly talked with his hands and used specific vocal inflection to help dictate the tone in his scenes. As Reinhardt gets more downcast, his physical exhaustion was shown through Kane’s hunched shoulders and downtrodden face. There is no way around it, Kane was born for this role.
Dick Powell, played by Rick Powers, is one of the actors in the movie that is in love with Olivia. Powers was confident onstage and had both an air of sophistication and a handle on whatever is thrown Powell’s way. Powers had movements to show the gentlemanly side of Powell. Powers was keen on body detail, with his downcast glances and biting his tongue to show his uneasiness around Olivia.
Steve Schreur plays Jack Warner and nailed the Hollywood mogul. His character is arrogant and Schreur portrayed this well with his finger waging, in-your-face demeanor, and loud voice. Warner is all professional, yet also shows an angry side when his love interest, Lydia, might have a roaming eye. However, Schreur struggles in the anger scenes and they seemed a bit forced. Even with this though, Schreur has captured the essence of Warner with his powerful voice and no-nonsense attitude.
Daryl is Warner’s assistant, a typical “yes” man. Travis Ponikiewski had this characterization down pat with slumped shoulders, nervous ticks and timid voice. When Daryl is being fought over by the two women who have fallen in love with him, Ponikiewski’s voice awakened into the new portrayal. His voice became stronger and his stance more confident; he transitioned well into no longer wanting to be a “yes” man.
Lydia Lansing, played by Lindsay Hayward, is a movie actress that only has her role because of Jack Warner. Lansing struggles with her acting skills and uses her assets to help her career. Hayward picked up on Lansing’s personality and was cast perfectly for her role. Her high-pitched, sometimes annoying voice was only one aspect of her great vocal skills. Hayward was constantly shaking her breast and winking in showing Lansing’s womanly ways. Hayward’s use of overacting and over dramatization only suited her character more. She was a natural at it; not forced but truly great acting.
Lori Jones played Olivia Darnell, the innocent actress excited to finally have made it on the big screen. Jones’ flustered appearance and constant blush showed Darnell innocence. Her voice was sweet and soft and had the right amount of inflection to denote the new actress’ nerves. Jones continued use of playing with her hands and wide eyes showcased both of these sentiments.
Craig Boleman was made to play Will Hayes, the strict censor who came to see if the play could be produced or if it must be changed. Hayes is haughty and arrogant and Boleman delivered this characterization using shifty eyes, vocal inflection and a game-show-host smile, each and every aspect of his monologue made the audience laugh. When Hayes finally falls in love though, this is where Boleman shone. However, it was hard to hear his lines over his over-enthusiastic tone.
Joe E. Brown, played by Clayton Cunningham, is a character actor working on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Cunningham did a fantastic job playing both male and female roles. It was his facial expressions of wide open smile, pursed lips and bright shining eyes that helped bring the comedy out of the role. His inflection and ease of going between a higher female voice and a deeper male voice showed his acting talent.
Bolt Harvey did an excellent job using his voice to portray the one and only Jimmy Cagney. He used specific enunciation and solid confidence to show the swagger of this prestigious actor from the 1930’s. With a wide, body stance and stoic facial expression; he played the role with utmost control.
The Company, comprising Anna Boyd, Chris Phipps and Jordan Pokladnik, are the solid extras of the play. They move in and out of the scenes effortlessly, and while they could easily be missed, without them the scenes wouldn’t feel complete. They each did a fantastic job being a “behind the scenes” character that showed their strength in their skills.
Shakespeare in Hollywood by ICT’s MainStage is a show filled with laughter and love-confusion. With some use of adult language and humor, I was blushing a time or two sitting next to my husband! We walked out laughing and having more fun than we have in awhile. This is a great production and one that should be fit into any social calendar.
Dupree Theatre at Irving Arts Center
3333 North MacArthur Blvd.
Irving, TX 75062
Runs through June 14th
Friday-Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Sunday at 2:30 pm, with an additional performance on Thursday, June 12th at 8:00 pm
Tickets are $21.00 and $19.00 for seniors 65+ and students (child to college). Tickets for the Thursday performance are $18.00 and $16.00 for seniors and students.
For information and to purchase tickets, go www.irvingtheatre.org or call the box office at 972-252- ARTS (2787).