Monday, June 20, 2011

Nothing Short of Dreamy!


Flatwater Shakespeare's Midsummer is a Dream
By Ladd Wendelin, Star City Blog, June 20, 2011

“I may never believe / These antique fables nor these fairy toys,” speaks Theseus in Act V, Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which played to a receptive, if not bug-bitten, audience in the Lincoln Foundation Gardens (1417 N St., just past Colby Ridge Popcorn) Sunday evening.

Watching a cast of Flatwater regulars and newcomers perform, it struck me just how prevalent the supernatural is throughout the play (learning something new every time – a guarantee with any Shakespeare play). Magic, or the misuse of it, inevitably leads to disbelief. The fancies of love quickly become a fool’s errand. And yet, deep in the heart of the Athenian woods, Shakespeare invites us to scrap our skepticism, get lost in the language and be seduced by transformative, magical powers that only appear in the heat of the moment, just before daybreak.

It would be difficult to imagine this play being staged in Flatwater Shakespeare’s regular home, the Swan (or Carriage House) at Wyuka Cemetery. Currently under renovation, director Bob Hall has wisely moved operations for this production of Midsummer from the Swan to the Lincoln Foundation Gardens. The Foundation Gardens are the ideal setting for the play, and Hall has clearly taken great care in adapting the play for the space. Forget that it’s bordered by the Windstream building! Stretch your imagination just enough, and you’re bound to find yourself in a hanging garden surrounded by Roman ruins.

With the audience on either side of the commons area, surrounded by the well-manicured flora of the Gardens, Flatwater’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream has just enough of that supernatural / illusionary quality to really make it that theatrical summer treat, distinct from past Flatwater productions, and yet accessible enough to appeal to a larger audience. Fortunately, there’s much to appreciate in Hall’s production.

Hall’s crack production team has not let the opportunity of performing in the Gardens pass them by without a strong showing of their trade. Janice Stauffer’s glistening costumes and Dustin Witte’s expertly crafted, hand-woven props not only complemented the setting, but seem to draw inspiration from it.

Some excellent performances from the cast must be seen to be believed, as well. Mike Lee, who captivated as a banjo-strumming minstrel in UNL’s Twelfth Night, returns here as the mischievous sprite Puck. His energy and enthusiasm for the role is quite apparent and welcome. Robie Hayek leads the troupe of inept players, which includes Eric Ojeda in a standout performance as the half-assed Nick Bottom. From Ojeda to Petrea Whittier’s Hermia, the commitment these actors and actresses bring to their respective roles is perhaps the strongest reason to fall under the consistently engaging, enchanting and hilarious spell of Midsummer.

Bob Hall and his cast have magic to do, just for you, and the effect is nothing short of dreamy.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs this weekend, June 22 to 26, Thursday through Sunday, with performances each night at 7:30 p.m. at Lincoln Foundation Gardens (1471 N St.). Starting the following weekend, June 30 to July 3, and continuing July 7-10, Midsummer will embark on a whirlwind tour of Lincoln’s finest gardens and parks. To these performances, audiences are asked to bring blankets, chairs, and cushions to sit on. Free ice cream will be provided by Ivanna Cone.

June 30: Prescott Elementary School, 1930 S. 20th Street

July 1: Cooper Park, S. 6th and D Streets

July 2: Bethany Park, N. 65th and Vine Streets

July 3: Henry Park, S. 44th Street and Prescott Avenue

July 7: First Plymouth Congregational Church, 2000 D Street

July 8: Trago Park, N. 22nd and U Streets

July 9: Antelope Park@ Ager Center, 1300 S. 27th Street, by Liberty Statue

July 10: Woods Park, S. 33rd and J Streets

Admission to all performances is completely free of charge, although a suggested $10 donation is encouraged. Bring bug spray!


CALL 402-473-2897 for information and reservations.

Photo: Mike Lee as Puck in the Flatwater Shakespeare Company production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Photo Credit: John Nollendorfs.

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