Trinity’s hilarious, high energy ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’

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Trinity Rep’s Artistic Director Curt Columbus announced that every 11th grader (plus many 9th and 10th graders) in Rhode Island will be given free tickets to see their hilarious, high-energy production of Shakespeare’s classic comedy, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

If this production doesn’t turn teenagers on to theatre, particularly Shakespeare, then nothing will.

Director Tyler Dombrosky has taken the play and set it at a high school Spring Fling in 1986.

Now some scholars get offended when theatre companies mess with Shakespeare, but believe me, this is one interpretation of the classic you don’t want to miss.

You know the story of the two pairs of lovers who are given love potions, upsetting the apple cart by causing confusion and sending the lovers into a frenzy. Then there’s the sub-plot featuring a group of wandering players-in this case, the school drama club.

Dobrowsky has set the play in the round, with a clever scene changer when the action shifts from the court (school gym?) to the woods, without using any sets, but lighting up the Chace Theatre with hundreds of colorful lights.

The 2½-hour play, with one intermission, moves rapidly and uses the entire theatre and audience space, often involving the audience in the action. This is a play for everyone, young and old alike. Shakespeare’s words are there, but how the director and actors have interpreted them is extraordinarily hilarious.

Rachael Warren is Puck, complete with orange hair, an outrageous costume, and proficiency on roller skates. Her powerful voice belts out rock songs that the teens will love, fitting perfectly with the action.

Mauro Hantman plays two roles, as different as night and day and requiring quick costume changes, as does Phyllis Kay, who will amuse you with her two characters. Hantman even plays the guitar and sax.

Costume designer Olivera Gajic works overtime in providing the numerous costumes that help define the characters.

Timothy Crowe plays three characters, changing from the uptight father to a lion. That is an actor playing a lion. Crowe, a veteran of dozens of Trinity productions, takes on the role so out of character that I found myself laughing uncontrollably every time he stepped on stage.

The lovers: Rebecca Gibel as Hermia; Jude Sandy as Demetrius; Daniel Duque-Estrada as Lysander; and Gwen Kingston as Helena are just plain terrific. Their roles require changing their outlooks and characters and include some precision physical humor.

The “drama club” has its moments. Led by the talented Brian McEleney, who can be a serious Shakespearean actor, the fumbling crew will have you in stitches. Jeff Church goes from a meek cast member to a beautiful blonde seductress with a quick costume change. Angela Brazil and Kym Gomes have their crazy moments.

And then there is Fred Sullivan Jr., chewing up the scenery (what little scenery there is) with his portrayal of both Bottom and Pyramus. His wooing of Phyllis Kay’s character is another classic performance in his long list of classic performances.

There are two companies of kids playing the fairies. We saw the “Ghostbusters” cast, and they were terrific.

So much more could be said about this entertaining production, and all I can say is SEE IT, and encourage your children of any age to see it. It is Trinity at its best.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays through March 24, with performances in the afternoon for schoolchildren. The cast will certainly be exhausted when this run is over. Call 351-4242 for reservations.

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