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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Trinity Rep.Live-Stage Setting 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' at '80s Prom is Pucking Awesome


Trinity Rep., which is the official state theater of Rhode Island, literally and figuratively hits several high notes regarding the Project Discovery production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Rep. offering every 11th grader in Rhode Island free tickets for the play, which runs through March 24 2017, provides America's future a chance to experience tubular '80stastic Shakepeare. Although the dialogue largely is true to the original text, the very clear enunciation and subtly reduced pace makes it very comprehensible.

The following YouTube clip of a promo. for the production provides a look at the bright style of this period piece and shares the thoughts of reviewers who are more diligent than yours truly.

Rep. Associate Artistic Director Tyler Dobrowsky immediately sets an apt tone for this production set at a 1986 Spring Fling by having engaged couple Theseus, who is the Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta as faculty members discussing their upcoming wedding plans while chaperoning the aforementioned school event.

The "kids" around whom much of the action centers then figuratively and literally take center stage in this theater-in-the-round production. Preppy jock stud Lysander and perky suburban daddy's girl Hermia are totally in love (totally), but face the Shakesepearen obstacle of the paternal figure of Hermia promising her hand (and everything that goes along with it) to Urkel-like nerd Demetrius. The "The Love Boat" fun continues with "Heather" girl Helena pursuing Demetrius as assertively and as futilely as he chases Hermia.

Hermia facing the ultimate ultimatum (which makes the threat of Daddy taking her T-bird away seem inconsequential) leads to her and Lysander plotting to escape into the woods to the safety of Athens. This, in turn, leads to the first of several very apt live-action music videos in the production. Watching Lysander take the lead role in the duet "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" by Jefferson Starship establishes actor Daniel Duque-Estrada as a master of '80s power ballads. It also prompts your not-so-humble reviewer to quietly comment that he did know that the 1987 OSCAR-NOMINATED Kim Cattrall/Andrew McCarthy teencom "Mannequin" was Shakespearean.

The final piece of the puzzle also soon comes in form of the group of actors that Shakespeare dubs the mechanicals having their time center stage. Dobrowsky transforms this troupe into an amusingly dorky drama club that gets set to go into the woods to rehearse a play to present at the Theseus/Hippolyta wedding.

On entering the woods, the audience meets a roller-skating Cyndi Lauperlike incarnation of the mischievous Puck and an '80s-style Elvis version of Fairy King Oberon. This sets the stage for Puck to mess with the foolish mortals who enter that realm.

Rep. wisely augments this pair with the alternating Ghostbusters and Goonies groups of elementary-school students in neon wigs and Punky Brewster attire playing the fairies who provide Puck with an entourage. A well-known principle of regional theater management is that casting kids fills seats with family and friends of these young thespians. Having two groups of kids fills twice as many seats.

Dombrowsky gives each kid a chance to shine; one bespectacled lad particularly give Duque-Estrada reason to look over this should regarding the younger lad having an awesome solo.

The mayhem involving our young lovers largely revolves around Puck causing Lysander to throw over a confused Hermia in favor of an equally perplexed Helena. Highlights of this include giving Duque-Estrada a chance to belt out "Hungry Eyes" by Eric Carmen and get some hot boy-on-boy action.

Meanwhile, the drama club gets down to business. Club member/class clown Bottom bears the brunt of the whimsy of Puck by acquiring a donkey head and becoming the object of affection of fairy nobility.

Oberon stepping it restores order in a manner that employs the most pamtastic plot device of Victorian style '80s television.

The action then returns to the school auditorium wedding of our duke. Among other things, this sets the stage for the drama geeks to first go all flashdance and then present their raucous version of the classic play that they rehearsed in the enchanted forest.

The fun of all this literally extends into the audience as characters chase each other throughout the seats, two sections of seats go mobile, and your not-so-humble reviewer once finds Demetrius in his lap.

The only apt way to wrap all this up is to share that that this is one time that all's well that ends well and to remind readers that the play's the thing.

Anyone with questions regarding "Midsummer" or Rep is strongly encouraged either to email me or to connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.