MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAMBy William Shakespeare
Directed by Natalie Bennett, Ethan and Madison Armstrong
Set Design – Clay Armstrong, Ethan Armstrong, Madison Armstrong, Chris Bennett, Natalie Bennett, Jake Blakeman
Costume Design – Ethan Armstrong, Madison Armstrong, Michelle Bennett, Natalie Bennett
Lighting Design & Crew – Clay Armstrong, Jake Blakeman, Cain Rodriguez
Sound Design/Score-Alex Poole
Stage Manager-Darby Villano
Theseus – Brad Grippe
Hippolyta - Jacy Ashford
Egeus - Hayden Evans
Lysander – Jake Blakeman
Hermia – Madison Armstrong
Demetrius – Alex Poole
Helena – Bellah Gordon
Bottom – Alex Anderson Carrasco
Peter Quince – Max Martinez
Francis Flute – Grey Harris
Tom Snout – Jack Kelley
Snug – Melissa Tull
Robin Starveling – Angelina Gonzalez
Puck – Ethan Armstrong
Oberon – Bailey Lewis
Titania – Natalie Bennett
Head Fairy – Jackie Taylor
Reviewed Performance: 8/24/2018
Reviewed by Ann Saucer, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The play is staged in a former church in Oak Cliff, and the effect is charming. Candles are set in the stained glass windows, and the outside lighting changed as night fell.
I have seen Midsummer (ahem) a number of times, and was delighted to see these directors infuse the story with original comic stunts. This is a particularly bawdy Midsummer, which is a completely reasonable and entertaining interpretation of the text. Titania (Natalie Bennett) consummates her lust for Bottom (Alex Anderson Carrasco); Hermia (Madison Armstrong) loses her dress; Puck (Ethan Armstrong) goes crazy with the love potion; and the two young men take their shirts off.
Not unrelated to the bawdiness of this production, the award for best part discharged goes to Jack Kelley as Snout/The Wall. He is a scene stealer from the start. Carrasco is a comically vain Bottom whose Ass is infused with amusing playboy elements. As Francis Flute, Grey Harris serves up an hilarious performance as Thisbe. The other Players (Max Martinez, Melissa Tull, Angelina Gonzalez) also deliver a fantastic play-within-a-play. In this production, the Players are less afraid of their royal audience than I have seen in other Midsummers, and this makes for a more sensical interpretation of Robin Starveling’s lines, with which Gonzalez does a great job.
Bailey Lewis’ Oberon is a tad Christ-like, and an electric guitar player. It’s an interpretation that absolutely works. He and Ethan Armstrong, as a sassy Puck, have good comic timing together and do a great job with the Shakespearean dialogue.
Once I got over myself that Helena (an appropriately feisty Bellah Gordon) is not at all tall, I was able to enjoy the young couples. Lysander (Jake Blakeman) and Demetrius (Alex Poole) serve up hilarious physical performances as they vie for Helena’s affection. Blakeman and Poole do not hold back as they preen before Helena and spar with each other. Madison Armstrong does a good job with Hermia’s frustration.
The forest mayhem is perfectly timed and the cast delivers funny physical antics. There are also some lovely, strong voices in the cast.
The church is outfitted with professional theater lighting, which facilitated the changes from day to night. Costumes were original and functional. In the raucous lovers’ scenes some of the clothes get pulled off, and the effect is very funny. The Fairies’ boho style costumes were appropriate and blended with certain set design elements. As far as props, two bread rolls and a butter knife are to-die-for funny.
The set was unique with some charming details. Someone’s student bed/desk ensemble was turned into a tree which made a functional perch for Puck, and movable tree stumps allowed for versatile set changes.
The directors did a good job ensuring that the Shakespearean dialogue was understandable, but not everyone in the cast has the expertise to make it natural.
Overall this was a pleasingly innovative production, and I look forward to seeing more from these directors, who took risks that paid off.
August 24, 25, 2018
Arts Mission Oak Cliff
410 South Windomere, Dallas, TX 75208
For information call 940.453.1300 or go to curbsideplayers.com.