FET’s A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM is an experimental treat

Fordham Daily says: Go see it!

FET’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Feb. 19-21 at 8 pm in the Blackbox, 6 & 9 pm on Feb. 20

IMG_1782Who knew Shakespeare would be a good fit for FET?

Fordham Experimental Theater’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream doesn’t do anything radically different to the Bard’s great comedy, but the subtle changes directors Jonathan O’Neill and Christopher Pedro have made only highlight the timelessness of the work.

As the play begins, four Athenian lovers gather for the wedding of Duke Theseus and Hippolyta. Hermia (Sarah Hill, tender and emotional) pines for Lysander (the passionate Collin Wright), but as he warns her “The course of true love never did run smooth”- her father forbids the marriage and wants her to marry Demetrius (AJ Golio, charismatic in his persistence), who is actually in love with Helena (an authentically virtuous Cat Gallagher).

In a parallel story, fairy king Oberon (Gavin Barba, imposing yet lovable) is feuding with his wife Titania (the tenderly intense Shannon Morrall). He witnesses a fight between Demetrius and Helena and sends his servant Puck (Jake Benoit, sprightly and winning) to pour some magical juice on Demetrius’ eyes so he will remain in love with her.

The third plot strand follows a group of actors who are rehearsing the play Pyramus and Thisbe for a performance at the Duke’s wedding. Lead actor Nick Bottom (the scene-stealing Nick Pappas) attempts to take charge of the proceedings, but is soon brought down to size by Oberon. A parade of mistaken identities, animal transformations and pratfalls ensue as the three stories merge into one lively comedy.

Ironically for such a lighthearted show, the stage is actually quite dark- only a footlight and a streetlight illuminate the proceedings, which sometimes annoyingly makes it hard to actually see the actors. The performance of Pyramus and Thisbe is the only exception to this; the heightened lighting also heightens the farcical proceedings.

There is no set per se- the stage is bare. This conceit, however, makes the Blackbox stage more open than it usually appears- a great boon for a show with so many actors.

The costumes for each group of characters are drawn from different eras- the Athenians wear traditional togas, while the fairies and players are dressed in more modern clothes. This clever device keeps the different sets of characters straight in the audience’s mind.

Though O’Neill and Pedro have changed very little of the show’s content, one alteration is worth noting- rather than using Shakespeare’s original song in a key scene, they have replaced it with the jazz classic “Summertime.” Besides making the scene more relatable for the audience, it also offers Sarah Bernstein (who plays fairy Cobweb) a chance to show off her lovely voice.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is not as experimental as the club’s usual fare, but it still offers a new look at a Shakespearean classic. It may seem strange to brush up your Shakespeare in the Blackbox, but when the show is this good it would be foolish not to take the lesson.

Full Cast List:

The Court of Athens
Hermia – Sarah Hill
Lysander – Collin Wright
Helena – Cat Gallagher
Demetrius – AJ Golio
Theseus – Daniel Bradley
Hippolyta – Julia Webb
Egeus- Ricky Bordelon
Philostrate – Christiana Shovlin

The Fairies
Oberon – Gavin Barba
Titania – Shannon Morrall
Puck – Jake Benoit
Peaseblossom – Caitlin Calio
Cobweb – Sarah Bernstein
Moth – Brandon Karrer
Mustardseed – Monica Fafaul

The Rude Mechanicals
Peter Quince – Giancarlo Milea
Nick Bottom – Nick Pappas
Francis Flute – Michael Guariglia
Snout – Rita Padden
Snug – Mary Kate O’Toole
Starveling – Katie Dolan