The course of true love never did run smooth, but Shakespeare’s audiences must have been experts at untangling complicated plots. It may be one of the earliest romantic comedies ever written and I missed my chance to audition because…well, truthfully? I chickened out. Methinkest memorizing all that Elizabethan English seemeth too tough a challenge for this ol’ wench.
But there are younger and braver souls than I among the Prairie Players. So young, in fact, that few of the present cast were alive when the group began in 1969—which speaks to the excellent health of the company. And so brave, they’ve taken all that Shakespearean syntax and added further challenges. For starters, change the time frame to 1960 and adjust costumes accordingly. Then, just because you can, move it to New Orleans. Which, of course, requires delivering all those old English lines with Louisiana accents. Now throw in some toe-tappin’ fiddling for the wedding dance. Oh yes, and just for fun, turn the fairies and wood nymphs into zombies.
Well, why not? Dreams are weird, and this is a dream after all. I wonder if Freud ever tried to interpret the deeper meaning of this one.
If it’s been a while since you’ve seen or read A Midsummer Night’s Dream, let me refresh you. Don’t worry, this isn’t a spoiler. Trust me, you’ll enjoy the play more if you already understand the gist of the story.
Hermia is in love with Lysander, but her father wants her to marry Demetrius. To escape the arranged marriage, she and Lysander escape into the woods. Demetrius follows, but is pursued by Helena, who nurses an unrequited passion for him. A love quadrangle develops among the young lovers when the mischievous Puck plays Cupid. You with me so far?
Meanwhile, a group of amateur actors rehearse a badly-written play to perform at the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, set simultaneously in the woodland, under the light of the moon. But soon the actors find their lives changed by the doings of Oberon and Titania, the quarreling king and queen of the fairies. Oberon seeks to punish Titania’s disobedience and recruits Puck to help him apply a potion which makes the victim fall in love with the first living thing they see when they wake. Still with me?
Puck uses the spell on the four lovers, resulting in Lysander and Demetrius both falling in love with Helena and leaving Hermia out in the cold. Helena’s convinced they’re all mocking her and a rollicking good catfight ensues. Puck also works some magic on Bottom, one of the amateur actors, turning his head into that of an ass. Unfortunately, it’s Bottom whom Titania first sees upon waking, and is now in love with him, ass-head and all. Still following?
Eventually, all is restored, a three-way wedding takes place and Bottom gets his head back. Forsooth and forthwith, you’ll holler “Yee-HAW!” as the hillbilly hootenanny unfolds.
Bravo, Prairie Players, for taking on an enormous challenge and breathing so much life and color into an old story in this, our 45th anniversary. Directed by Mary McCown and assisted by Stephanie Kaufmann, the cast features Jordan Thiessen, Kimberly Cairns, Paul Warthe, Ember Rodgers, Tyrone Taylor, Travis Roberts, Jenn Bach, Fran Myles, Sebastien McCown-Kobinger, Mary McCown, Alistair Wright, Tessa Lupkowski, Shania Jack, Josh Walker, Lisa Marie Tessier, Jeffrey Arndt, Simone Switzer, Carolann Roy-Kobinger, Emily Hutchinson, Meghan Anderson, Vicki Hooke, Ashley Anderson, and Rachel Sokolowski.
This lively production runs at the William Glesby Centre for three nights: April 24, 25, and 26 at 8:00. Tickets cost $13 and are available at the door or during regular box office hours, or by calling 204-239-5591.
Fare thee well, y’all!