Reviewed by Nicole C. Lee
It’s all about the actors in The BAMA Theatre Company’s production of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Simplicity is the governing theme: the set design is simple; the performance space is denoted by blue masking tape laid down by the actors at the start of the show. This allows all focus to be on the performers, and the audience is not disappointed. The eight-member cast takes on all 22 characters in this comedy about what happens when supernatural beings meddle with love.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is perhaps one of the more confusing Shakespeare tales to tell, so to aim for simplicity with this show is wise. It features three interlocking plots among three completely different groups of people: supernatural creatures, royalty, and the lower class. The eight-member cast takes on the task of portraying characters that total nearly three times their number. Notable roles such as Puck and Bottom are challenging in and of themselves, but Chris Roe and William Brock, respectively, put on strong performances. All of the actors do a superb job of not only differentiating each of their multiple roles, but making them their own. Nick Lawson, for instance, portrays an edgier Lysander. One could see him as easily comfortable on the streets of contemporary New York as in the palace in Athens, where the play is set. Simple and distinct items of clothing assist the swift transitions between characters and scenes. For example, a black pair of broken glasses is all Alison Frederick needs to go from playing Moonshine among the troupe of actors to the regal Hermia at the palace. The simple costume changes allow the cast to avoid confusing the audience about which character they are portraying at any given moment.
Director Peter Macklin is very loyal to Shakespeare’s text, and the simplicity of the show – in lighting, set, and costumes – allows the actors to bring the story to life. Much like Olympic gymnasts, the actors never step past the blue line unless they are “off-stage”.
Overall, BAMA’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a delightful interpretation of one of the more difficult Shakespeare plays to perform. Though there are as many leading roles as there as actors in this cast, the production highlights the strength of a good ensemble of actors.
FringeNYC 2009: A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2 hours and 15 minutes, including one 10-minute intermission)
The Cherry Lane Theatre (38 Commerce Street)
Tickets: $15 (www.fringenyc.org)
Performances: concluded August 29
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