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A CurtainUp NJ Review
Mdsummer Night's Dream
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
— Theseus
Courtney McGowan and Ian Hersey (photo credit: Jerry Dalia)
As one might expect during midsummer, there are likely more than just two productions of William Shakespeare's popular comedy going on right now in the tri-state area as well as regionally across the USA. In a most enjoyable production by the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey at the outdoors amphitheatre at the College of Saint Elizabeth a brightly lit sign states we are gazing into a junk yard soon after the white columns-braced Grecian setting all but disappears.

If all that glittered was not gold but rather the collectable sort of disposable garbage that fairies might choose to wear, the effect is stunning. I'd swear that the Fairy Queen's train was made of discarded silver CDs. With strands of colored lights strung criss-cross above the stage, as well as the real moon and stars above, the night I attended was, indeed, magical.

The energetically playful performances, under the direction of Bonnie J. Monte (who also designed the settings and fantastical costumes) brought a real freshness to the Bard's ever charming, if overly familiar comedy.

Was that really a levitating fairy queen that appears to arise from her induced slumber to become enamored of an ass that gallops? What made the comedy especially notable was the doubling of most roles, giving the actors a real workout changing costumes just as the action has them speedily traversing the stone steps of the amphitheatre more times than looks safe.

The plot is famously thick with incidents and co-incidents that also involve the matching and mismatching of two sets of lovers. But enough of that, as it is Monte's invigorating approach and even mischievous vision of the comedy that makes it a treat. There is never a dull moment with a company that is as frolicsome with the rhymed couplets.

As this play is a rather rambunctious expose of love at its most playfully passionate and physical, it is a joy to see such disarming actors take on their multiple assignments with such abandon. Keeping a close eye on Courtney McGowan as she flits back and forth from a chirping Hermia to Peaseblossom to Snug, Austin Blunk as he assumes the roles of Demetrius to Mustardseed to Francis and then into a hilariously insecure Flute. Also without ever compromising the humorous illusions are the muscular Earl Baker, Jr. as Theseus and Oberon and the towering Jonathan Finnegan, as Lysander, Moth and Snout.

Wielding her racket and in court whites, Nike Kadri was as well prepared for a badminton match as she was to win all of us over in colorful tatters as Cobweb and Starveling. Posturing elegance was personified by Vanessa Morosco as Hippolyta and Titania. Bruce Cromer went easily from a high fallutin' Egeus to a high jinks inclined Peter Quince.

Standout in his only role and for getting the most laughs was Ian Hersey as the idiotically self-aggrandizing Nick Bottom. Felix Mayes as the Peck's Bad Boyish Puck was a terrifically acrobatic Puck. A tight little company of the bewitched and the beguiled conspired to make this comedy as well as the play within the play as funny as it is meant to be.

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A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
Directed by Bonnie J. Monte

Cast: Felix Mayes (Philostrate/Puck), Earl Baker, Jr. (Theseus/Oberon), Vanessa Morosco (Hippolyta/Titania), Bruce Cromer (Egeus/Peter Quince), Courtney McGowan (Hermia/Peaseblossom/Snug/Lion), Austin Blunk (Demetrius/Mustardseed/Francis Flute/Thisbe), Jonathan Finnegan (Lysander/Moth/Snout/Wall), Nike Kadri (Helena/Cobweb/Starveling/Man in the moon), Ian Hersey (Nick Bottom/Pyramus, Tyshon Boone (Key Fairy), Katlyn Tilt (Ring Fairy), Joelle Zazz (Button Fairy)
Set, Costume and Sound Designer: Bonnie J. Monte
Lighting Designer: Burke Wilmore
Scenic Consultant: Steven L. Beckel
Costume Design Associate: Tiffany Lent
Choreography: Felix Mayes
Production Stage Manager: Jackie Mariani
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes including intermission
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, on the campus of the College of Saint Elizabeth College, the Outdoor Stage.
Performances: Tuesday- Sunday at 8 pm; Plus Sunday twilight show at 4:30 pm.
From 06/14/17 Opened 06/21/17 Ends 07/30/17
Review by Simon Saltzman based on performance 07/15/17

NJ Theaters
NJ Theatre Alliance
Discount Tix Information

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