Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Faulkner: "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

On last Friday night, the Faulkner University Dinner Theatre not only presented their pleasant production of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, but also paid tribute to its founder, Philip Sprayberry, who thirty years ago created what has become a Montgomery institution that has entertained thousands. Former Faulkner student actors, faculty, friends, and several from the local community helped celebrate Sprayberry's birthday on the night, his first visit to Faulkner's new performance space.

In Shakespeare's delightful romantic comedy, three worlds intertwine with sometimes hilarious results: the Athenian nobility and upper class, the Faerie Kingdom, and the "rude mechanicals" (a troupe of itinerant actors)...and director Angela Dickson invented a prologue without dialogue that introduced her audience to the various plot lines and complicated relationships.

Oberon [Matt Dickson] and Titania [Kari Kelly] -- the King and Queen of the Faeries -- have argued about which of them gets to keep a little changeling boy, and their magic impacts all the others. Oberon's assistant, the mischievous Puck [Daniel Harms who also choreographed the show] does his bidding but sometimes makes errors that must be fixed.

Athenian King Theseus [newcomer Trey Ousley] and bride-to-be Hippolyta [Courtney Curenton] -- an Amazon warrior princess he defeated and then wooed -- are planning their wedding celebrations when Egeus [Morgan Baker] asks the king to settle a dispute with his daughter Hermia [Emily Woodring]. Egeus has chosen Demetrius [Blake Williams] as Hermia's husband, but she loves Lysander [Brandtley McDonald], and the two young people elope, letting their friend Helena [Jesse Alston] in on thier plan to meet in the woods that night; Helena loves Demetrius, who also follows them, so many complications arise in the woods.

Meanwhile, the rustic actors meet in the woods to rehearse their play -- Pyramus and Thisbe -- to be performed at the king's wedding. Chief among them is Bottom [Chris Kelly is terrific in the role, especially as Pyramus who edits his lines as he speaks and demonstrates some fine acting skills along the way], whose overblown self-importance is soon thwarted by Oberon and Puck, who charm Titania to fall in love with the first person she sees on awakening, ensuring that it will be Bottom whose head is exchanged with an asses head. --- Also while sleeping, Lysander is similarly charmed by mistake and awakens to instantly fall in love with Helena.

Lots of hilarity as these various entanglements get unravelled. "The course of true love never did run smooth", after all.

Ms. Dickson keeps the action moving at a steady pace, and inserts a few modern songs into the mix.
The ensemble actors manage Shakespeare's verse pretty well, though there is a long learning curve before they will be proficient. They do better in the prose sections and the broader comedy. And the strong singing voices (a mainstay in many of Faulkner's musical productions) are given significant attention.

And on a hot Summer night, this A Midsummer Night's Dream is a most pleasant entertainment.