By Maria Grau
Right now, in English classes all over the world, students are cringing at the very mention of Shakespeare. Because of his forte for complicated subplots and hard-to-understand early modern English, reading, not to mention comprehending, one of his plays can seem like a daunting task.
The PVI production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” performed in the Heet Auditorium Nov. 19-22 was in no way an exception. Within the play itself, there are three subplots as well as an additional play-within-a-play. There is the main plot, revolving around the two pairs of lovers, Hermia and Lysander (played by Abigail Rozmajzl ’16 and Ryan Brogley ’17) and Helena and Demetrius (played by Caleigh Davis ’17 and Drew Goldstein ’17). Then there is the story of the feud between fairy royalty, Oberon (played by Nathaniel Smith ’17) and Titania (played by Sonya Chinje ’16).
As the audience would come to discover, these fairies end up making some trouble for the lovers. Then there is the theatre troupe, wandering in the forest and rehearsing their next show. Despite a challenging plot structure, Mrs. Miller, head of the PVI Players and director of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” pulled together the whole show and helped to display Shakespeare in a way that students could understand.
The production presented a variety of exceptional actors such as J.J. Cummings ’16 who portrayed Bottom. Anyone who saw the play would agree that Cummings provided the comic relief. His outrageous sound effects when he is changed into a donkey and his famous death scene as Pyramus in the play-within-a-play left the audience laughing with tears in their eyes.
Another comical presence came from Puck (played jointly by twins, Bobby and Tommy Kelleher ’17), the mischievous fairy who stirs up trouble for the other characters in the play. Puck is known for his quick wit, his tendency for popping in and out of the scene, and his ignorant mistakes which cause Lysander to fall in love with Helena instead of Hermia. The Kelleher twins did not disappoint. PVI was at a unique advantage, having twins play the part, because at times, when Puck was supposed to be running around, one twin could run off the stage while the other runs on. Or, as in other scenes, one could jump down a hole in the set while the other pops up on the other side of the stage. The set was ingeniously designed in a way which would allow the fairies, especially Puck, to pop up in this “magical” fashion. In my opinion, the characters of Bottom and Puck were executed with a quick wit and confidence which made them the most compelling characters throughout the play.
One stylistic choice made by our theatre program was the adaptation of Shakespeare’s play to modern times. Described as having a “60s vibe”, the play included vintage costumes and props to appeal more to current generations. The boys were outfitted with pinstripe pants, while the girls rocked vibrant, yet dreamy, dresses, but it was the music that really brought the “60s vibe” to culmination. Despite this adaptation, the plot and language remained true to Shakespeare’s original. Some found the play difficult to understand because of this, but going in with a basic knowledge of the plot, I was able to comprehend the majority of the dialogue. The only flaw in the production was the quality of the sound. Like any live production, there were a few small problems with microphones, particularly Puck’s. Some sound problems are always to be expected and the actors were able to proceed with their lines with confidence, despite the minor glitches.
The most memorable part of the play was probably the play-within-a-play, the story of Pyramus and Thisbe. Not only were the roles well done, but the lines provided for some of the funniest moments of the production. The deaths of the two “lovers”, Pyramus and Thisbe, were tragically exaggerated and frankly hilarious. Pyramus’s’ shrill cries as he rolled down the stairs of the set “dying” had the audience asking for more. Thisbe’s death scene was mostly enjoyable because he was dressed as a girl, and prior to stabbing himself, he punctured two balloons in his dress that were serving as fake breasts.
Overall, PVI’s production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was a perfect mix between elegant professions of love and squeaking donkey noises, providing for an educational, yet enjoyable time.