Produced by: Buck Hill Productions ShakesBEERience
Directed by: John McCluggage
Featuring: Gendell Hing-Hernandez, Skylar Collins, Keith Pinto, Jeff Kramer, Doll Piccotto, Drew Benjamin Jones, Josh Marx, Derek McCaw, Melissa Weinstein, Lizzy Mary Marx, James Reber, Karen Altree Piemme, Lee Kopp, Kayleigh Laymon
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
When: April 17, 2017
Where: Cafe Stritch, 374 South First Street, San Jose, California
Coming performances: Visit https://www.facebook.com/buckhillproductions/
but wait! There's beer!
'Midsummer Night's Dream' at Café Stritch
"I laughed so hard my jaw is aching," my partner said at the end of Buck Hill Productions' "Midsummer Night's Dream" at Café Stritch in San Jose.
Director John McLuggage has worked hard to make The Bard's plays accessible to a wider and younger audience. At ShakesBEERience productions there are a number of common themes the actors have minimal stage clothes, they read from scripts in hand and wander about the audience, making entrances and exits from all directions, and lastly, well, there's that word BEER in ShakesBEERience.
To ensure that the Stritch's bar has a good night and that the audience gets well and truly, err, involved, a keyword or two is chosen that when uttered must be accompanied by a swig of beer or wine, or whatever your tipple happens to be. This night the chosen words were "Demetrius" and "Lysander," two of the play's characters, whose names are indeed uttered quite often.
"A Midsummer Night's Dream" is one of Shakespeare's most popular comedies and portrays the events surrounding the marriage of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. They are planning their wedding, which is to be a grand affair, celebrated under the new moon. There are pairs of lovers, a group of actors known as the Rude Mechanicals working on their tragic play of Pyramus and Thisbe, and last but not least, the Fairies, who add some uncertainty and unlikely plot twists.
Gendell Hing-Hernandez, playing Nick Bottom and Pyramus, is a joy to watch. He delivers his lines with such panache that it's as if he had written the part himself, nay, even lived it, forsooth. He dashes in from one side of the stage and dashes out the other. He falls on the floor after stabbing himself with a spoon (I know, just go with it), and delivers lines sitting on the bar itself. Bottom actually wants to play Thisbe, the Lion, and Pyramus at the same time, so his enthusiasm is quite within character. Nevertheless, when he and Thisbe a rather fetching, dressed-in-drag Skylar Collins perform their play-within-a-play, the audience was in fits of laughter at their shenanigans. Peter Quince, played by Keith Pinto, tries to keep them on message, but it's not easy.
But it's time for the Fairies to do some mischief. Oberon, King of the Fairies (Jeff Kramer) has a bit of a spat with his Queen Titania (Doll Piccotto) and instructs his "shrewd and knavish sprite" Puck, played with humorous reluctance by Derek McCaw, to concoct a love potion that when applied to the eyelids of a sleeping person compels that person, upon waking to fall in love with the first living thing on which they set their eyes. Oberon decides to teach Titania a lesson and puts some in her eyes while she is asleep, then he directs Puck to apply the potion to Demetrius (Drew Benjamin Jones), one of the lovers. But Puck gets it wrong and douses Lysander (Josh Marx) instead.
Once awake, the four lovers are in a morass of confusion, and re-application of the potion does nothing to remedy the situation.
Meanwhile mischievous Puck decides to have some fun at the expense of Bottom, and gives him a pair of donkey ears, which scares all the other actors away. Alone in the forest, Bottom goes to sleep close to … Titania. She awakes and surprise, surprise, falls in love with Bottom and his donkey ears.
As the lovers bounce from one to another ("The course of true love never did run smooth," says Lysander), the names "Lysander" and "Demetrius" are uttered more than a few times, invoking the basic tenet of ShakesBEERience (remember, it's about the BEER). Helena, who is in love with Demetrius, was played delightfully by Melissa Weinstein, and Hermia was played with some wonderful comic turns by Lizzy Mary Marx. "Lord what fools these mortals be!" says Puck to Oberon.
Of course everything and everyone comes back together in the end, thinking that perchance it was all a dream, and they all live happily ever after, after Puck "restores amends."
Jack shall have Jill;
Nought shall go ill;
The man shall have his mare again, and all shall be well.
Once again McLuggage has worked his own brand of fairy magic, condensing The Bard's play into a mere 90 minutes without loss of storyline. There is no intermission in ShakesBEERience as you can just get up and refill your glass or whatever whenever you want. A great way to keep Shakespeare alive and kicking in the 21st century.
Email Tony Lacy-Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org