On Thursday, Savvy Shakespearean Alex Taylor braved the elements to see KCST’s annual outdoor spring show. This year, the production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream made the evening enjoyable despite the chill.
KCST’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while not without its faults, was definitely worth braving the drizzle and the cold. The classic Shakespearean comedy was effervescent and full of life, despite the unfortunate weather conditions. Director Brian LaPerche CC’12 deserves some sort of award for pulling this upwards of 70 members, two and a half hour piece together. The KCST spring production takes place outside and accepts everyone who auditions. These two potential logistical nightmares were handled well by LaPerche. It was clear that every location was painstakingly chosen for each scene for a reason. Low Library was a perfect backdrop for the Athenian court, and the trees and fields around Uris helped create the mystical, fairy populated forest, and the transitions between scenes, led by the actors, were smooth. Blocking group scenes, especially for a cast of this size, is no small feat. I was impressed by the fact that through both clever blocking and actor commitment, the group scenes never seemed dead or obligatory. The production team shone as well. The lighting desig,n by Lila Neiswanger CC’12, created beautiful shadows and patterns that improved the overall experience, in addition to well designed costumes by Liz Watson and Emily Putscher, BC’ 12 and BC’15 respectively, that were accented by terrific make up by Isabella Serrani. Choreography by Elizabeth Power CC’13 and music direction by Matt Star CC’12 were also key elements in the creation of this vision. LaPerche and his production team obviously worked incredibly hard on this production, and it showed.
As far as the acting was concerned, I found it to be mostly well done. It was clear from the beginning that there would be concern about the actors being heard by the audience, since the production took place outside, and with no microphones. I commend the actors for a job well done in this regard, as I could almost always hear them. However, there were several occasions where I found the actors to simply be shouting in order to make themselves heard, and not resonating in the space, which sacrificed some of the beauty and intricacy of Shakespeare’s language for volume. There were several actors who resonated beautifully, two examples being Elizabeth Kipp-Giusti CC’12 as Helena and Daniel O’Neill CC’13 as Oberon, the fairy king. Apart from this technical note, I felt that the three different groups of characters, the Athenians, the fairies, and the mechanicals, had a different style of acting that helped keep the piece alive. While I caught them shouting the most, the Athenian lovers, Helena, Lysander (Thomas Kapusta CC’12), Hermia (Samantha Grecco BC’12), and Demetrius (Alex Dabertin CC’15) had great chemistry as a group, and did a good job of living in the moment as they fell in and out of love with each other.
Much of the comedy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream comes from the “rude mechanicals”, a group of craftsmen putting on a play, and this group did not disappoint. They were led by Gerard Ramm CC’13 as Bottom, whose comedic stage presence was infectious, and fed off of by the other actors, so much so that, when Ramm’s character left the mechanicals, they seemed a little less lively and even flat. That said, their performance of Pyramus and Thisbe at the end of the play was comedic gold.
I loved LaPerche’s interpretation of the fairies. The bad ass, powerful vibe LaPerche was going for was helped by absolutely stellar casting. O’Neill, Rachel Chavez CC’14 as Titania the fairy queen and Gabrielle Beans CC’14 as Puck all had incredible commanding stage presences, so much so that my eye was drawn to them whenever they were on stage. Their entourage, the fairies and satyrs that made up the ensemble, were well utilized as audience guides and kept group scenes lively, but in moments where they were not actually on stage, and just sitting or standing among the audience members, I honestly found them to be distracting. Granted, Oberon and Titania’s followers are supposed to be mischievous troublemakers, but constantly hearing snickers and whispers of “Lysander! Demetrius!” and so on, took away from some of the stellar acting going on. It almost felt as if LaPerche was worried about the piece becoming tedious, and therefore used the ensemble in an effort to keep scenes alive and interesting. It would have been perfect had it been toned down a little.
Overall, KCST’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was an enjoyable night of Shakespeare. Everyone involved deserves a round of applause, for this was by no means an easy task to accomplish. It was, of course, impossible to do something of this magnitude without problems, but what was accomplished was very well done, and very admirable. I left impressed, and I plan to see more of KCST’s work in the future. Maybe I’ll even audition.
The final show of A Midsummer Night’s Dream begins tonight at 8pm at the sundial.
Frolicking Fairies via Wikimedia Commons