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A Unique Shakespearience

Stephanie DePrez | Friday, September 10, 2010

Five Actors from the London Stage graced the stage in Washington Hall Wednesday and presented a show all their own. Without a director, costumer or choreographer, these actors epitomize the raw relationship between the writer and the stage.

Armed with nothing but the immortal words of Shakespeare, the actors work out, in their own fashion, how to put on a show. Then they travel to universities throughout the United States to educate the communities about the Bard.

When they rambled up to the stage on opening night of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Wednesday, they brought energy. Since there is minimal costuming and props, it is the slight modifications in character  — a thrusted hip, a pouty lip — that indicate who an actor is playing at a given moment. The ease with which they oscillate between personas is something to be admired, even when one player is on for two characters at once. These moments are particularly amusing, because suddenly we are forced to accept the ridiculous pose of an actor having a conversation with himself (and talking to the glasses he just took off).

The selection of this semester’s play is fortunate for us, an audience that is most often comprised of students having their first Shakespearience.

“Everyone knows ‘Midsummer,'” said Devon Black, who plays Helena (among others) in the show. “It seems to be the first Shakespeare play everyone sees.”

The show has been chosen years in advance to give universities a chance to plan for it in their curriculum, and it is our good fortune that Midsummer is coming through now.

“It’s a great story to start with,” Black said. “It’s the original love story. Love triangles, fairies, danger and passion!”

It is with passion that these actors approach the show. The clear favorite of this troupe is its comedy, specifically the comedy of the mechanicals, the peasants within the show who decide to put on a play of their own, and its star Bottom, who ends up getting mixed into all the fairy business after being turned into a donkey.

Within these scenes the actors excel, and are unafraid to push the envelope that will have you laughing out of shock and embarrassment as much as devilish wit (which makes one realize just how clever Shakespeare’s words really are).

There are moments in the show when it seems as though we have come upon an extended actor’s game, or moments that linger a bit too long, but such moments are nearly forgotten when the next moment of comedy comes up. What’s to be admired about this troupe is that, since the actors own their actions, they relish them. The misfortune of a scene requiring six players is embraced, and turned into a prime opportunity for a vaudevillian display of physical comedy.

 “We had all sorts of discussions,” Black said about how to present the show. “Midsummer has bestiality, first passions, and everything about it is raunchy.”

The show is a faithful display of all that Shakespeare revels in — physical action, visual tricks and clever interpretation. The best part, though, is the shear joy with which the actors approach the show. They alone make the show, and they rise to the occasion. Truly Bardiful.