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Suffolk Review: Midsummer Night

Director Marilyn Plotkins constructed the atmosphere for her show Midsummer Night right away, as several poorly dressed and over-friendly “groupies” began to set up tents in the house of the Modern Theatre Friday night.

They were planning to camp out in order to attend the newest iconic rock music festival, Peaseblossom. Where fan-favorite acts Oberon (Kari Soustiel) and Titania (Kathryn Gast), two rock star lovers were set to collide.

Groupies mingled in the house both with one another and with audience members. The groupies seemed eager, but sober. The circus folk seemed significantly stoned, which very nicely set the scene for the happenings in the Suffolk University Theatre Department’s production.

The show, a 90-minute rock opera, is a loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and employs many of the same characters and plot points as the original text.

As an adaptation, Midsummer Night, written by Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigota, changed all the right things, but kept a sizeable chunk of the original text the same, and morphed the old English into fun song and comical dialogue.

When the show began Puck, the assistant to Oberon, kicks off the musical festivities with one of the few ensemble songs, “Midsummer Night.”

Puck, played by senior Ashley Wright, shows off her wonderful vocal talent and establishes her importance in the show in the first piece.

The circus performers and “The All-Stars,” who are Titania’s assistants, show off some expert choreography. Junior Sydney Grant played a crucial role in organizing the show’s elaborate dance numbers and acted as a circus performer.

After the song and dance, the show’s main conflict arises—as both Titania and Oberon accuse one another of cheating on each other. Gast, impressed with her solo in “This I Will Not Abide.” Her powerful voice worked extremely well with her character, and even visibly intimidated Oberon, compelling him to conspire with Puck to trick Titania.

All the while, the problematic story of the “lovers”—Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius and Helena—begins to unfold much like in the original script. In fact, to this point, Midsummer Night had pretty much stayed right with the plot of Shakespeare’s original text.

The conflict between the lovers is about the same, but for those unfamiliar with A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the two males, Lysander and Demetrius, played by freshman Kevin Hanley and senior Conor Walsh, are both attracted to Hermia, played by senior Vindhya Fernando, but she only likes Lysander. Meanwhile, Helena, played by sophomore Rose Garcia likes Demetrius, but he does not return the feelings.

Effective costuming and characterization made it clear that Demetrius and Helena were meant for each other, as they were both dressed as total nerds. Lysander rocked the cool-guy garbs by the side of the neutral-dressed Hermia.

Oberon oversees the conflict with the lovers, and instructs Puck to use “special capsules” to make Demetrius fall in love with Helena so that all shall be well. Puck, however, mistakes Lysander for Demetrius and gives him the capsule instead.

When Helena wakes Lysander from his sleep, he bursts off the ground and into song—proclaiming his newfound love for Helena. This was one of the more hilarious parts of the show, and Hanley’s potent singing voice and effective physical acting made “And Run Through Fire” an extremely comical number.

Overall, musical director Scott Nicholas did great work with the cast. The singing was great and the songs were an appropriate fit for the students. The acting was consistent across the board. The variation of characters in relation to Shakespeare’s was also effective.

There were components of the show that the adaptation stressed even more than Shakespeare. One outstanding example is a line that Puck has in the original text: “Jack shall have Jill; / Naught shall go ill; / The man shall have his mare again, and all shall / be well.”

The song “All Shall Be Well” uses the line in the song, and it holds true more so than the original, in that both Bottom and Puck find “their mare” at the end of the show. This is unlike A Midsummer Night’s Dream where Oberon and Titania end up back together, and Puck and Bottom remain idle.

In conclusion, the show was extremely entertaining. Plotkins’ directing was great, and the set, designed by Richard Chambers, worked extremely well for the show—utilizing zip lines and a suspended circus ring where Puck loitered.

The choreography was also aesthetically pleasing with the set, and the show did not seem dragged out—despite the fact that it was an intermission-less 90-minute performance.

It is safe to say that Midsummer Night was a success and a good fit for the Suffolk University Theatre Department.

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