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Alix Sideris as Titania, Ron Klappholz as Bottom  Photo: Lynn Chagnon
Alix Sideris as Titania, Ron Klappholz as Bottom Photo: Lynn Chagnon

Theatre Review: "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in Prescott

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A Midsummer Night's Dream is running in rep with Othello at the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in Prescott through August 18. Resident theatre critic Connie Meng attended a recent performance and has this review.

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The St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival in Prescott is presenting a lively and entertaining production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM.  At the performance I attended thunderstorms were predicted, so it was moved from the outdoor amphitheatre to a church a few blocks away.  The shape of the sanctuary is similar to the outdoor venue.  It has a rectangular raised platform with side entrances right and left, the choir loft behind and aisles for action similar to the steps in the theatre.  I can’t comment on John Doucet’s set, as it’s used only in outdoor performances.  My only problem is with the acoustics.  There’s a slight reverberation that sometimes makes dialogue and lyrics difficult to understand.

Speaking of lyrics, Music Director Melissa Morris has, as usual, done a wonderful job.  She and Allison Hess perform a lovely pre-show tune on Irish harp and recorder, then switch to clarinet and trombone on a comic march used for most of the scene changes.  The terrific openings of both Acts I and II use the mechanicals on a number of instruments, while the lyrics set up the coming action for the two young couples, all of whom sing very well.

Allison Hess is very good in both her roles and does a lovely job singing Titania’s lullaby.  As Egeus, Shane Carty is solid and believable and handles the language of the opening exposition with ease. Melissa Morris, as well as her fine job on the music, makes a sparkling and appealingly mischievous Puck.

I have a problem with Ron Klappolz’s overly swishy Bottom.  He’s obviously a natural comic, but is so far over the top it’s like watching stand-up and has little to do with either the play or the character.  Usually Bottom is reined in by Peter Quince, well-played by Dan Karpenchuk.  In this case the director has given him his head.  Although some of what he does is very funny, for me it’s far too much and inappropriate.

The young lovers are all good actors and extremely energetic.  Lana Sugerman’s Hermia is a wonderfully giddy blond teenager who’s smarter than she acts, while Warren Bain’s Lysander is a handsome fellow urged on by passionate hormones.  As Helena Kate Smith displays all the stubborn devotion of her teen-age crush on Demetrius, well-played by Brad Long, equally stubborn in his rejection of her.  The scene with the foursome near the end of Act I is appropriately overwrought and terrifically athletic.

I enjoyed watching Alix Sideris as both Hippolyta and Titania.  She’s terrific at listening on stage and then subtly responding.  Titania’s “forgeries of jealousy” speech is excellent, punctuated with subtle shoulder movement.  I also love her swaggering exit as Hippolyta after her final kiss with Theseus, wearing the most lascivious smirk I’ve ever seen.

The costumes by Roberta Doyland are very good, especially Titania’s slinky gown, the floaty pink and blue dresses of the young ladies and Allison Hess’s ornamented bird’s-nest hair.

Director Catriona Leger has done a good job of staging, keeping the play energetic and youthful.  She doubles the mechanicals as fairies, a good decision, and uses clever costume clues as to who’s who.  All the actors are good as both and also as musicians.  She’s allowed for just the right amount of interaction with the audience, with the exception of Bottom who overdoes it.  The children in the audience, and there were quite a few, seemed entranced.

The play has a complex plot and it’s helpful to read the excellent synopsis in the program.  Should you be in the indoor location, be sure to pick up a pillow on the way in.  If I can manage it in the couple of weeks left of the run, I’d like to return for a second viewing, this time in the outdoor setting.

On a scale of one to five the St. Lawrence Shakespeare Festival production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM gets four and a half buoys.  For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng.

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