Last night I attended Evening Star Production’s opening night presentation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Sol Theatre. Adapted and directed by Seth Trucks, it is the inaugural show in Sol’s new Shakespeare Initiative, a seed that was planted two years ago and has been lovingly cared for in minute detail, culminating in this vibrant offering to the theatre gods.
This show was initially intended to be directed by the late Laura Ruchala, whose life was tragically cut short just after her 36th birthday. Trucks, in his pre-show oration last night, advised that in one of the last conversations he had with Ruchala they discussed how Shakespeare lends itself to innovation and interpretation and how it should be adapted and retold in new and exciting ways. The first show I attended at Sol Theatre was Ruchala’s adaptation of The Comedy of Errors – starring Trucks as the twin Antipholus’ - which was creative and imaginative, literally out-of-the-box thinking. Ruchala passed away just before her show’s run began and the mantle to carry on the Shakespeare Initiative fell to Trucks. From what I saw of Ruchala’s directorial vision in The Comedy of Errors, what he has done with it would have pleased her endlessly.
This production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is described by Trucks as Shakespeare done in the style of a John Hughes film. Enter the 80s.
It is set in Athens High School, and even the lobby of Sol Theatre is dressed for the occasion. The guest book that is usually out front has been replaced by a notebook paper “Slam Book” in which theatregoers can write their thoughts about the show. The program is set up similar to a yearbook. No detail has been overlooked.
As did The Comedy of Errors, Midsummer begins in an external story and then magically slips into Shakespeare’s world. This play goes farther still with a beautifully shot expositive video that sets up the pre-Shakespearean scene.
Though the play is a comedy and at times this production is farcical and it is absolutely funny, it also is a very deep and moving production, and the youth cast draws emotions beautifully. You can feel the lovers’ hearts breaking when spurned by their respective suitors. You can feel the jealous ire aroused in the fight between Hermia (Emma Lawrence) and Helena (Chloe Ward) and the territorialism of Demetrius (Ryan Siegel) and Lysandra (Kayla Asouti). The angst of the teenage condition is expertly portrayed in Francis Flute (Isabella Welch) and Robin Goodfellow, better known as Puck (Francis Alfieri). Puck’s orchestrations of the emotions of the Athenians is also very reflective of the high school experience.
The Misfits are wonderful comic relief in their play-within-the-play: the tremulous Wall / Kim Snout (Kate Finkelstein), the insecure Lion / Snug (Noah Fineman), the anarchist Moon / Robin Starvling (Natalie Macadar) the apathetic Thisbe / Francis Flute (Welch), and the over-the-top-enthusiastic Pyramus / Nikki Bottom (Rylee Siegel), handled by their poor, put-upon stage manager, Penny Quince (Emma McAvoy). Their production meetings are very funny, but their execution of Pyramus and Thisbe is side-splitting.
I have to pay tribute to the gorgeous choreography by Sara Grant, beautifully executed by the Fairies: Peaseblossom (Brooke Hall), Cobweb (Zoe Alarcon), Moth (Sami Mascaro) and the adorable little aptly-named Mustardseed (Eden Wexler). The fairies (and their dancing) play such an important part in bringing the magic of this production to light. Their performance was extremely moving.
Also well-choreographed is the Benny-Hill type chase scene that pays homage to Ruchala’s Comedy.
The only adult cast members have dual roles – Cindy Thagard plays both Hermia’s mother and Titania, and Justin Schneyer plays Hermia’s father and Oberon. The original play is changed so that the dual-role element is meant to be apparent, the conflict between the two pairs carrying over from the pre-Shakespearean world to the fairyland.
I have to note how beautifully the elements of same-sex relationships are completely glossed over, no attention brought to them. As they should be.
The final, living, breathing member of the cast is the set itself, which is painstakingly dedicated to serving the play. Every little element is perfectly placed so that the transition from location to location is not only believable but enthusiastically brought. To say more would be to give too much away, but I do have to praise Kate McVay’s scenic art because when the play was over, I was compelled to go and inspect the painted rug for about five minutes for its utter beauty.
Costume, particularly in a play set in the 80s, is also an important element. Thankfully, these youth were spared from some of the more hideous choices 80s kids made, but side ponytails, suspenders, headbands, leotards, and sweater vests all made an appearance. The Philostrates (Kylie Lawrence, Megan Mascaro, and Zoe Wexler) double as theatre ushers in their Girl Scout uniforms.
As this blog originated as a music blog, I would be remiss if I failed to mention the perfect music choices that are incorporated throughout the show. Songs from A-ha, The Police, Cyndi Lauper, Peter Gabriel, Talking Heads, Star Wars, Wham!, and OMD are not only played but expertly curated into the show. “Careless Whisper” is hilariously utilized. The scene where “In Your Eyes” plays had me literally weeping with the beauty of it all. “Take on Me” was used so cleverly that I fear an element of song choice might be lost on some audience members falling too far outside of the bubble of the 80s. But when “And She Was” played, I was stunned. Clearly as much loving care was used in selecting the soundtrack as was in adapting the play itself.
Every person who had a hand in bringing this beautiful work to life should be proud of what they have accomplished. It was worth the year’s wait to see what this play has become.
Sol Theatre is a 501(c)(3) corporation that relies on generous donors to continue to carry out its mission of bringing affordable, quality theatre to South Florida and to making theatre accessible and exciting to young people and youth actors. One such recent donation was an upgrade of seating in the theatre, so now everyone can sit in comfort as they enjoy this midsummer night’s dream.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
By William Shakespeare
August 5 – 21
Tickets: $20/$10 for Students
For Tickets: 561-447-8829 / www.eveningstarproductions.org
Performances: Friday & Saturday at 8 pm / Sunday at 2 pm
3333 North Federal Highway
Boca Raton, FL 33431