Theater Takeaway: Trinity Rep's A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare's classic, raunchy and comedic tale gets a fanny pack strapped on and is doused in hairspray.
Looking back at my notes after seeing a play is telling. There are doodles when the play is dull, meticulous phrases when it's serious and incoherent scribbles when it's exciting.
With Trinity Rep's rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the incoherent scribbles flowed forth.
Trinity's A Midsummer Night's Dream is set at a high school in 1986, and it works; it's as simple as that.
I admit, before I saw the show I was skeptical. There are so many funk-ified renditions of classic plays that just don't work because there's no connection.You’ll get some weird Willy-Wonka-fied version of Romeo and Juliet where everyone is sucking on lollipops and is painted orange, and the reaction is, “what does it all mean??”
But this candy-colored, neon frazzled, hair sprayed and fanny-packed concoction of an '80s high school dance mixed with a quirky, fairy-filled Shakespeare play was ace.
The play opens with two teachers, a.k.a. the duke Theseus (Mauro Hantman) of Athens and his fiance, the Amazon queen Hippolyta (Phyllis Kay), overseeing preparations for their wedding/the high school dance. Hippolyta wears a puffed out shoulder-padded suit and sneakers, while the duke rocks oversized glasses that make him look a bit like Napoleon Dynamite.
We then meet the high school sweethearts, all clad in the exact school uniform I used to wear as a tyke: green plaid skirt, white blouse, pointless little button necktie thing.
There’s Lysander (Daniel Duque-Estrada) and Hermia (Rebecca Gibel), the quintessential high school power-couple: attractive, friendly-to-all, lovey-dovey.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, you get the lovesick, diary-scrawling Helena (Gwen Kingston) who pines obsessively for Demetrius (Jude Sandy), who only has eyes for Hermia.
This is sooo high school. And the drama has only just begun.
You don't want to be stuck in this love triangle.
What follows is a tale of mischief, caused by a tiff between the fairy queen and king that spills into the mortal realm and messes up who loves whom.
Rachel Warren is glorious as Puck, the king of the fairies’ impish side kick. She rolls around on pink roller skates, her tutu, sparkling top and love potion hairspray causing trouble wherever she goes. Her antics, and the antics of the lovers, are augmented by a slew of all-too-pertinent classic '80s music numbers: “Love is a Battlefield,” “Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now,” “Hungry Eyes”...oh, and Demetrius rapping LL Cool J's "I Need Love." Yeah, that happened and it was way cool.
Puck rocks, literally.
Another masterful interpretation of the classic play made eighties style, came with the theater nerd group who present a play to entertain the duke on his wedding day.
They arrive on set, each costume perfectly eighties (I want those acid washed mom jeans), each actor perfectly nerdy (cue the braces with headgear) and all their scenes freakin’ hilarious.
The only thing my notes say to describe the theater nerds' production is, “sparkling, shimmering kaleidoscope of beatboxing glory donning silver platform heels.”
You’ll have to see it to understand, to believe it, and to revel in this gem of a play as I did. It’s the bomb.
Trinity Repertory Company’s A Midsummer Night's Dream is onstage now through March 24. Tickets range from $25 to $71. For more information, call 401-351-4242 or visit trinityrep.com.