The South Carolina Shakespeare Company's (SCSC) winter production, William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, definitely amused its audiences. The Friday, January 22nd, performance ignited chuckles, giggles, and even guffaws. Some actors had to wait before delivering their lines so as to be heard over the crowd.
As part of the SC Arts Commission's Arts in Education program, the performances were held in Hammond School's spacious and modern Bank of America theater over three January nights. The company also put on a special daytime show for Hammond students, some of whom had small roles in the production.
This depiction of the famous comedy was directed by SCSC first-timer Sara Blanks, who put a 1940s spin on the setting and costumes. Hippolyta, played by Larisa Daly, wore a notably vintage dress, as did the young women Helena (Brittany Lewis) and Hermia (Kayla Brill). The gentlemen lovers Lysander (Hunter Bolton) and Demetrius (Andrew Burleson) wore WWII-era military uniforms which might have attracted the nearest steampunk.
Those uniforms were just one of the goth touches to be found in the presentation. Helena's burgundy dress with black satin trim, black wrist cuff, and thick waist-cincher-like belt were the more reminiscences of darker style onstage. Puck's black finger- and toenails exuded an other-worldly essence. The light-reflective, shimmery, and dramatic makeup of the fairies would make any good goth swoon to know the brand and where to buy it. A tribal-industrial musical piece was even used in the soundtrack!
Even if it had no goth touches, though, the play was a winner for any Shakespeare fan. The cast was picked perfectly: Bobby Bloom played an agile, active, and animalistic Puck that exuded the essence of the prankster, complete with leaps, bounds, and wild movement throughout the theater. Rozlyn Stanley's interpretation of fairy queen Titania was regal and exuded the strength any queen should have. Michael Hart's Nick Bottom was an audience favorite with his hilarious accents and behaviors befitting the character. Changing "Peter Quince" to "Patty Quince" for female actor Ruth Glowacki was a witty way to afford the character just the right player. And Brittany Lewis delivered Helena with just-right emotional swings. All cast members suited their roles and wouldn't be as phenomenal playing any other parts.
Of course, the favorite scene of the night was the Pyramus and Thisbe play-within-a-play, in which the "rude mechanicals" act out a Romeo and Juliet-esque tragedy that becomes a comedy. Blanks' direction and the actors' characters created a most hysterical interpretation. Kudos to Tripp Mixon as Francis Flute/Thisbe-- Thanks for not taking yourself too seriously to wear the silly blond yarn wig and bosom-boosting dress over which dark chest hair showed; that takes a real man!
However, one scene in the show disrupted the overall flow. When Titania nestles for the night and asks her fairies for a "roundel," the actors actually broke into dance. The SCSC has a history of incorporating modern choreoography such as slow-motion fight scenes into their performances, and usually, it adds to the plays. But Blanks' casting non-dancers in the roles of dancing fairies was quite obvious, as they flubbed their moves and lost the beat noticably enough that an air of embarrassment seeped into the crowd. Fortunately it didn't last for very long!
All in all, the play was an exciting, economical diversion from the same-old. Though it wasn't an exceptionally unusual or unique interpretation of a play hundreds of years old, the little details and large personalities in this one made it memorable. It was easy-to-understand, even for the Shakespearean language amateur. And, as is always relevant, there were even a few tidbits seemingly tailored to goths!
If you're interested in seeing SCSC's take on the loveable comedy, you still have a chance! The play will be shown again in the spring as an outdoor event at Finlay Park. Check the CGCE calendar soon for more information!
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