Saturday, October 12, 2013

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" by Ten Thousand Things at Open Book

A Midsummer Night's Dream is perhaps the wackiest of Shakespeare's romantic comedies. It's the one where lovers chase each other through a forest, a group of actors rehearse and perform a preposterous play, and a woman falls in love with an ass (a literal not figurative ass, the latter is nothing unusual). This makes it a great choice for the superb theater company Ten Thousand Things to bring to their typical venues of prisons, homeless shelters, community centers, and other places and people usually lacking in the joy that theater can bring. TTT's version features an ethnically diverse cast and a few gender changes (Lysander is played by a woman and referred to as she), as well as men playing female characters and women playing male characters. None of this interferes with the story (all you see are eight wonderful actors playing many different characters), and perhaps makes it so that everyone finds someone or something to relate to. I always love seeing Ten Thousand Things shows to witness the true craft of theater without any distractions that a big fancy production can bring. In a fully lit room, the actors look you in the eye and simply say and feel and live the words of the play. It's theater at it's most basic and true.

Highlights of the show include:

  • Karen Wiese-Thompson as a very funny and earthy Puck. She shares a wonderful rapport with... 
  • Sun Mee Chomet, who digs into the role of Oberon, King of the goblins, with glee and a lusty laugh.
  • Elise Langer's hilarious transformation into the aforementioned ass, with the stomping of feet, an overbite, and subtle horse sounds in her speaking.
  • The marvelous Gavin Lawrence as the distinguished duke and the lovestruck Titania.
  • The delightful and surprisingly moving love story between the four lovers - Anna Sundberg's serious and devoted Lysander, Brittany Bradford as a radiant Hermia, Kurt Kwan's persistent Demetrius, and Mo Perry's hurt and disbelieving Helena. These four also have fun turns as the hapless actors rehearsing and badly performing the silly play-within-a-play.
  • Peter Vitale's playful cacophony of sound coming from the corner of the room that never distracts from, but always adds to, the story.
  • Fun, simple, and effective costumes by Sonya Berlovitz. Actors start out wearing pajamas, then don robes (color-coded to help remember which couples go together), with dark and fantastical coats and headpieces as goblins in the forest.
  • Little ad-libs or side comments that perhaps aren't in the script, but make the story feel more current and relatable.
  • During some scene transitions, actors slowly don a new costume, as if sleepwalking and waking up in a new life.

A Midsummer Night's Dream continues at Open Book through November 3. You can never go wrong with a TTT show, and this is a fun new take on a classic.

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