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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ gets naughty

    Courtesy of Ed Flores Fairy Queen Titania (Jordan Letson) awakens after ingesting a love potion and falls in love with Nick Bottom (Owen Virgin), whose head has been transformed into a donkey by another of Puck’s potions in Arizona Repertory Theatre’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” playing April 13 – May 4.

    The word “naughty” typically isn’t associated with the works of William Shakespeare, but it’s the most appropriate adjective to describe the Arizona Repertory Theatre’s newest production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

    Filled with spiteful love quarrels and flowerbed high jinks, the production’s naughtiness can be found in the creative liberties the director has taken to refresh Shakespeare’s 16th-century text.
    Trimming down the five-act play to just under 90 minutes transforms the story’s flow to reflect the formulaic structure of a modern-day romantic comedy. Though an English professor may consider this blasphemous, these hefty edits allow the audience to jump right into this tale of magic, deceit and oppression.

    “Shakespeare is more interested in making a mess,” director Stephen Wrentmore said. Wrentmore added that his editing is justified, as it eliminates some of the logical jargon that detracts viewers from plunging straight into the play’s chaos.

    Anarchy is the catalyst that fuels this tangled plot of star-crossed lovers. Before the show even begins, the audience is interrupted by an unexpected mist of rain falling from the ceiling. It’s a small hint foreshadowing the disarray that is about to be unleashed in this onstage world, where the seasons have been reversed due to trouble in the fairy kingdom.

    The play is a series of conflicts colliding together. Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of the fairies, are stubbornly gridlocked in a domestic dispute. In come two pairs of impassioned adolescents on the run from royal authority, descending into the woods where they become vulnerable to the mischievous fairies. Add a troupe of amateur actors into the equation, and you’ve got a plot full of farce and folly.

    “Our production breaks away from traditional expectations,” said Jordan Letson, a theater production senior who plays the role of Titania. Letson describes the design aesthetics of the show as anachronistic, in that they eliminate any real sense of time or space.

    When Letson first makes her entrance, she takes over the stage in an otherworldly outfit of nets and ribbons. She transcends the five-sided stage of the Tornabene Theatre like a mystical lioness out for blood, and her pack of fairy followers hover around, dressed in flamboyant garb.

    None the costumes of the production can be traced to a definitive period or concept, as they are meant to illustrate the characters’ individual senses of vivaciousness. The human characters of Athens start the story by entering all dressed in pearl-white, couture fashion, like they just walked out of a Vogue photo shoot. This purposefully contrasts with the wild colors and patterns of the fairy world.

    Puck, the most conniving of all the fairies, is dressed like a high-style ballerina who’s been dipped in pixie dust. The trickster catapults and lunges about the theater in a blue tutu with a narcissistic glee.

    “Trying to keep up with her is the most difficult thing,” said Grace Kirkpatrick, a theater production sophomore who plays the role of Puck. In a role traditionally played by men, Kirkpatrick personalizes the character’s playful antics with her own sense of bashfulness.

    Kirkpatrick has been training as a dancer since she was a toddler, and she utilizes these skills when she lurks and crawls from the depths of the round theater with the nimbleness of an spider.
    Owen Virgin, a theater production senior playing the role of Bottom, makes an impact with his flair for physical comedy. As the oblivious fool who has his head replaced with a donkey’s, Virgin guarantees laughs with a staged death scene that never seems to end.
    Virgin and Letson share a moment of naughty innuendo when a tribe of fairies builds a private fortress of white sheets around the couple as they spend the night together under moonlight. Clever lighting tricks project the silhouettes of the actors as they configure themselves into raunchy poses.

    The production features a number of innovative technical elements that are sure to surprise and impress. The bare platform set at the top of the show has hidden trapdoors, rising platforms and a rope-swing built inside.

    “Something is always moving onstage,” assistant director Amber Justmann said. “Something is always changing.”

    Justmann helped Wrentmore shave 5,000 words off of Shakespeare’s original text for this adaptation.

    The malleable nature of the set symbolizes the show’s unpredictable journey. Relationships change, fights ensue and yet harmony seems to be restored by the show’s end. Audience members will walk away feeling like they’ve just woken up from a dream.

    The 26-member cast consists entirely of student performers of the UA School of Theatre, Film and Television. Performances will run through May 4, and discounts on tickets are available for students and seniors.

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