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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Midsummer Entertainment

Theater Review

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   American Players Theatre (APT) has been known for breaking boundaries during its 29-year tenure, and not always successfully. However, the Spring Green troupe’s opening production for the 2008 season, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, proves why this noble effort should continue unabated.

  The Shakespearean comedy, which dodged the ongoing siege of torrential rain plaguing southern Wisconsin to open Saturday night, is a loosely woven collision of three separate stories familiar to Shakespeare fans. Star-crossed lovers Hermia (Tiffany Scott), Lysander (Matt Schwader), Helena (Carrie Coon) and Demetrius (Steve Haggard) run afoul of an older generation, escaping to the woods near Athens, where the fairy king Oberon (Michael Huftile) and his queen Titania (Carey Cannon) are having their own spat. Joining them is a group of tradesmen led by carpenter Quince (Darragh Kennan) and dominated by weaver Bottom (a hilarious Jonathan Smoots) to rehearse a play about fictional star-crossed lovers Pyramus and Thisbe to be presented at the nuptials of Theseus and Hippolyta (Huftile and Cannon again.) From that mix, a great deal of mischief ensues.

  Chicago director and APT veteran William Brown, responsible for last season’s Night of the Iguana, creates his own collision of contemporary and ancient styles that works better than might be imagined. From its unconventional opening to the “My Big Fat Athenian Wedding” close, Midsummer remains engaging throughout, with performers bringing charm and wit to even the most mewling roles. In addition to Smoots and Kennan, the tradesmen sextet, which includes riotous turns by actors David Daniel, Brian Mani, Andrew Truschinski and Paul Hurley, dominates the laughter in the three-hour performance’s second half, truly creating the evening’s highlight.

  Mix in Rachel Healy’s wildly inventive costumes and A Midsummer Night’s Dream proves to be a midsummer night’s entertainment that may prove the highlight of APT’s season.

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