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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

HTP’s ‘Midsummer’ enchants audience

Published: November 7, 2014
Section: Arts, Etc.

In a show of wit and flair, Brandeis’ Hold Thy Peace theater group presented Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in a more modern adaptation of the long-standing comedy. The show was artfully crafted and stitched together, aligning all the parts of a production—acting, scenery, lighting, costumes and makeup—impeccably. The play was particularly gripping because of the cast’s outstanding talent and comfort performing together, which shone through every moment of the performance.

It is undeniable that the actors knew precisely how to use the stage to their advantage, and could aptly direct their lines to get the greatest reaction from the audience. The play was riddled with uproarious laughter from the audience throughout the entirety of the performance. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was an undeniably solid play because it perfectly balances humor, romance, storyline and fairy-tale. In some aspects, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” entertained the bright-eyed child inside all of us—it was nearly impossible not to be enchanted by pointy ears and pouches full of glitter. All in all, the many elements of the play came together and made for a great escape from reality.

The play was performed a total of four times over the weekend in the Shapiro Campus Center Theater. The stage’s background scenery was large and intricate. It included a large tree in the center of several tall, white, Greek columns, all of which had been spray painted with graffiti. Because the set had two stories, it was possible for some actors to use the stage to their advantage to create an altogether more dynamic show.

The cast of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” featured a shockingly large number of actors who were new to Brandeis’ stage: Riely Allen ’18 as Bottom, Amanda Ehrmann ’18 as Snout, Alex Peters ’18 as Flute, Tova Weinberger ’18 as Hermia, Raphael Stigliano ’18 as Demetrius and Ben Sheinkopf ’18 as Starveling. Overall, they were astoundingly professional and exuded a self-assurance that only strengthened their performances. Their strong presence on the stage made it difficult to deduce that they were first-years, or that they had never performed in a college setting before.

They had discovered their character in a way that only the most practiced, most respected actors can—and truly became that character. A notable example was first-year Sara Kenney’s performance as Puck, the mischievous and devious fairy. Kenney’s ability to manipulate her mannerisms, gestures and voice to effectively deliver lines and interact with other characters was truly uncanny. Even though she was not the center of attention, Kenney knew how to present her character and add an extra layer of complexity to a scene.

The director’s note was especially appropriate considering the wacky, magical nature of the show: “In Midsummer the fringe folks and the oddballs get the last word. The fairies play merry havoc with the stately lovers. The rude mechanicals get the vaunted performance before the Duke. Everyone ends up basically where they started out, with just a little more love to spare.” In such few words, the director captured the enchanted spirit of the play and the bizarre, though absolutely engrossing nature of the show. HTP’s rendition of the comedy did well to shock the play and revive it from its graveyard on the dusty library bookshelf. All it needed was a group of thoroughly talented Brandeis students to resuscitate the old, wrinkly pages and liven the old verses.

The play fittingly closed with Puck’s final monologue. The lights had been turned off aside from a single spotlight, shrouding the stage in complete darkness except for Puck, who stared intently out at the audience. In a voice intended to subdue the audience, Puck’s final remarks solidified the illusion that this was a real-life fairytale: “That you have but slumber’d here/ While these visions did appear/ And this weak and idle theme/ No more yielding but a dream.” Kenney concludes the play by placing her hand in a tiny pouch and blowing a fist full of fairy dust to the audience. The dust particles reflected the light from up above, shimmering a whole spectrum of colors into the first few rows. The effect was complete, and the audience couldn’t help but look on in wonder.