Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Review: Missed Connections in the Forest

By Michael Block 

It’s the season of love and what better play to celebrate the season than A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Produced by Frog & Peach Theatre Company at the Sheen Center, this romantic comedy about missed connections was colorful but needed a bit more direction so the connection wasn’t missed. .
Directed by Lynnea Benson, this production of the Shakespeare classic follows Hermia, Helena, Demetrius, and Lysander as they journey into the woods as fairies play games with the mismatched lovers. In this day and age, it’s smart common practice to streamline and cut down the text for the attention deficit, click bait social media generation. Even with an intermission, the play clipped along swiftly, but felt slightly disjointed, perhaps due to cuts. In a way, it was a highlight reel of the Shakespeare classic.. Regardless of the feeling that the acting troupe at the center of the show, Benson’s production was simply safe that allowed the words to be present rather than a forced concept. To differentiate the classes in the world, Benson played with color. The performers were dressed in blues and oranges while the regal black and white was saved for the lovers and royals. When it came to the fairies, Benson went with the rainbow. Every other character in the play were dressed with a purpose, the fairies were given a little freedom and looseness. In a sense, they looked like failed “Drag Race” outfits made of plastic pieces thrown together at last minute. The minimal set, in a way, mirrored the fairies with black and white plastic and garbage bags. Perhaps this pairing of materials could give reason for the aesthetic of the fairy costumes.
Regardless, it seemed the strongest focus was on the Rude Mechanicals. Bottom, the “ass” of the troupe, seemed like the starring character of this production. A Midsummer Night’s Dream tends to allow the lovers or Puck to be the story’s focus, but they seemed like the minor players here. Played by Kevin Hauver, Bottom was on top of the fun. His ability to take the character and highlight further speaks volumes to his performance. When it came to the lovers, Eden Jacob Levy as Lysander, Kyle Primack, Alyssa Diamond as Hermia, and Bess Miller as Helena played into the missed connections as their chemistry didn’t quite seem to ever match. Somehow, they each seemed to be presenting a different version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Possibly the most understated character in this presentation was Puck. That being said, Marcus Watson made the best of his time on stage, physically embodying the fairy to the fullest.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a classic. The story is almost universally revered, but there still needs to be some sort of draw to keep the audience engaged and have a reason to present the story. Benson’s version of the Shakespeare play would be something that would be great to tour to schools as it is accessible to a younger audience. But this version needed something a little more.