The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title A Midsummer Night's Dream
Organization Take Note Troupe
Date(s) of show June 1-11, 2016
Reviewer Sallee Kallenbach
Review Take Note Troupe has done it again with an ingenious and magical interpretation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As I had expected, having been to previous TNT performances, the house staff were very accommodating to me and the rest of the audience as we arrived at the beautiful new Quarry Park Amphitheatre. The pre-show activity featured wood sprites adorned in masks, branches and rocks, milling about slowly and mysteriously, occasionally settling on the stage in camouflage mode. Fairies began to appear as well, prancing and blowing bubbles into the crowd. The set was simple, with camouflage netting, wire balls, and a few foliaged columns.

From the very first scene it was apparent that the director, LaRee Florence, thoroughly knew her Shakespeare. Every line and comedic moment was emphasized with an inflection, gesture or movement, making the play far more understandable, funny and enjoyable for the observers, whether they had studied Shakespeare or not. Many of the parts were double-cast, a very favorable choice for actors who all deserve a chance to shine. Although the sound system wasn’t perfect, the sound design and cues were superb. The cast moved and danced to haunting electronic music with imposing choreography by Danielle Rossetti. Exceptionally innovative costumes by LaRee Florence displayed vibrant colors and textures for the fairies and Jazz Age period costumes for the mortals.

From the start of the play I was intrigued and puzzled by the clever double-voicing effect of Puck. It wasn’t fully apparent to me until halfway through the show that Puck was played simultaneously by two young actresses who never materialized onstage together, but created a supernatural illusion of disappearance and reappearance as they moved, recited lines and looked identical to each other. These roles were played by Adeline Florence and Abby Brown. The lovers presented comedic expertise as they fell in and out of love with one another and cavorted from scene to scene. A couple of the many fun moments were when Hermia (Ryann Bailey) and Helena (Brooklyn Sheppard) jumped up and down girly-girl style as Hermia announced her elopement with Lysander (Samuel Stapp), and when Demetrius (Corbin Florence) puckered up and moved into Lysander’s place just as Lysander was about to kiss Helena.

The rollicking and bungling Craftsmen were Nick Bottom (Brady Holmes), Ann Snout (Emily Schofield or Elise Forbes), Robin Starveling (Justin Johnson or Dallin Blair), Francis Flute (Lucas Gandola), Mrs. Quince (Gabi Lindelof) Peter Quince (Hunter Busby) and Snug (Luke Sheppard or Parley Dufort). All of these players were a physical comedy delight, although Bottom stole most of the laughs as he vied for every part in the play-within-a-play and later swaggered about as he unwittingly transformed into a donkey.

Enchantment was evident as Puck frolicked about, whipping the fairies into a frenzy while Fairy King Oberon (Spencer Sanders) manipulated Puck with a mere flick of his finger. The fairies danced elegantly and sang lovely lullabies as their proud Fairy Queen Titania (Danielle Gandola) became bedazzled by Oberon’s love spells.

I was captivated by the manner in which the wood sprites, dressed as trees and stones, were so integral to the play, often chuckling along with Oberon, covering up the lovers with leaves as they slept, stealing clothing as the lovers ran about in their tattered remnants, gesturing as if hurt when being sat upon or pummeled by the various characters, playing move-and-freeze tricks upon the unsuspecting Bottom and appearing offended at the line in which Puck mentions the maiden sleeping “on the dank and dirty ground.”

Even the intermission was entertaining as Titania performed “I Wanna Be Loved By You” for Bottom.

One of the funniest moments came near the end of the play as Hippolyta (Brennan Bailey or Tara Wickham) and Theseus (Drew Oakes) were deciding on the final nuptial entertainment. When Theseus uttered the line about considering “an Athenian eunuch to the harp,” a grown man (uncredited) dressed in a Grecian frock and carrying a harp skipped happily from one side of the stage to the other as the audience laughed uproariously. This cameo almost eclipsed Bottom’s side-splitting “Thus, die I” speech, along with the appearance of a very cute and real dog during the hilarious “Pyramus and Thisbe” play.

I was simply stunned by this production and I hope that everyone gets a chance to see some of Take Note Troupe’s inspiring performances, be they musicals, comedy or Shakespeare.

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