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St. Stephen’s-St. Agnes’s ‘Dream’ tickles mortals

Megan Fraedrich, a student at West Springfield High School reviews St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as part of The Cappies Critics and Awards Program.

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Ali Shaw, Virginia Coffield, Ian Blau and Chris Forsgren. In the background is Henry Knotts and Chris Luggiero from St. Stephen's/St. Agnes School.
(Photo by Susan K. Hamon)

If the course of true love never did run smoothly, then the course of enchanted love is a whitewater rapid. Well-established relationships go haywire, beautiful women fawn over donkey-headed mutants, and the girl nobody likes suddenly has desperate male admirers clinging to her every limb, all thanks to two scheming fairies and one magical flower.

William Shakespeare’s fanciful comedy, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” has been popular for hundreds of years, and St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School’s dynamic production proves how fresh and accessible Shakespeare’s work can be. A feud with his wife inspires Oberon, King of the Fairies (Chris Luggiero), to wreak romantic havoc on all who venture into his stretch of the forest. With the help of a flower that causes people to fall in love with the first creature they see, he succeeds at turning things topsy-turvy for his wife, four young lovers and a troop of amateur actors.

Ali Shaw and Chris Forsgren shared playful chemistry as the young couple Hermia and Lysander. While charming and gentle as a lover, Forsgren particularly shone as a bitter rival to Ian Blau’s Demetrius. As Helena, who doggedly pursued Demetrius despite his disregard for her, Virginia Coffield brought intelligence and humor to the role and was much more appealing than pitiable. As Oberon’s servant Puck, Henry Knotts became a ball of mischievous energy, zooming across the stage with loud cackles and elfish abandon. Knotts remained fully engaged in every scene, despite a few interruptive sound malfunctions.

Matty Heller proved that it takes a great actor to play a bad actor in his side-splitting portrayal of Bottom, a pompous thespian whose head is transfigured into that of a donkey. Bottom’s theatre troop maintained a high energy level, performing a riotously funny play-within-a-play featuring the enthusiastic cross-dressing by Jordan Alston.

Elizabeth Lamb remained elegant and poised as Titania, Queen of the Fairies, even when head-over-heels for donkey-headed Bottom. Also giving a strong, self-assured performance despite limited stage time, Hadiya Seabron interacted well with Paul Funkhouser’s wry Theseus.

Versatile sets by Tori Laxalt, Elizabeth Lamb and Marena Anderson made clever use of a small space, while lighting by Elizabeth Movius, Maiya Elliott and Justin Klingenberger was nothing short of magical, with beaming projections and dancing strobe lights. Elizabeth Lamb’s quirky costumes and makeup added depth to the otherworldly setting, while Will Jakes single-handedly composed and performed a musical score that fit Shakespeare’s text like a glove.

Despite some over-acting and rushed delivery from a few actors, the cast of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” sparkled with energy. From the opening line to curtain call, the actors’ thorough understanding of the script was unmistakable.

“Lord, what fools these mortals be!” Puck proclaims. But Puck himself would have smiled on the mortals of St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes School as they embraced their inner fools in Shakespeare’s truly “sweet comedy.”

By Megan Fraedrich, Posted by Mario Iván Oña  |  December 16, 2009; 7:55 AM ET
 | Tags: Cappies 2009  
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