Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
The chirping of crickets and tweeting of birds sets the scene while fog rolls across the stage. The lilt of banjo music encircles the theater. It's not Shakespearean England at all, but the Louisiana Bayou in South Lakes High School's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
William Shakespeare's much-loved comedy, originally written in 1596, tells the story of the fairy world and the human world clashing on one midsummer's night. Four Athenian youths caught in a love "rectangle" have their love turned to hate and their hate turned to love when a miscommunication between the King of the Fairies and his fairy assistant Puck, causes a love potion to go awry. Amidst this, we are given glimpses of the production of a play-within-a-play that is to be performed for the Athenian royalty.
Performing Shakespeare is no small task, and South Lakes did a wonderful job of telling the story of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Even when the language of the script became somewhat confusing across the length of four hundred years since Shakespeare penned the words. The actors made sure to keep up the energy and convey exactly what the script meant through their emotions and strong physicality, and the setting of the Louisiana Bayou allowed for some great comedic moments and creative use of elements such as voodoo culture and accents.
Anchoring this production was the very strong comic relief Nick Bottom, portrayed by Ennis Shabab. Shabab's performance reminded us of why this play is considered Shakespeare's most popular comedy. Shabab's comedic talent was evident, with every single movement and line carefully considered to elicit the most laughs from the audience. The highlight of the show was when his troupe of actors, The Mechanicals, performed their play before the Athenian royalty. It was clear that Shabab and his fellow actors in the troupe were having fun performing and that joy translated into huge laughs from the crowd.
The four Athenian youths (Serena Mandala-Kol as Hermia, Farrah Greeves as Helena, Noah Rice as Lysander, Kiran Drew as Demetrius) that we follow also stood out as strong performances. The quick changes from love to hate and hate to love were believable, and through these transformations we saw a wide range of emotions—all executed wonderfully. Another standout performance was from Aaron Macdonald as Oberon, the king of the fairies. Normally a serious character acting as a foil to the fairy Puck, Macdonald showed great range from angry to gut-busting comedy. The image of Oberon sneaking across the stage and hiding in a small boat, concealing himself from the Athenian youths, brought the audience to raucous laughter and once again illustrated the strong comedic talent found at South Lakes.
Makeup (Emilia Cayelli, Midsummer Makeup Crew) was utilized throughout the play to illustrate otherworldly characters, with supernatural makeup for the fairies including two very well-done skeleton masks. These masks—as well as the costumes of those fairies—suggested the voodoo culture of the Louisiana Bayou.
Performing a story that was written over four hundred years ago is a daunting task, especially when translating comedy in a way that a modern audience would find funny, and South Lakes rose to the task and then some. This was by far one of the funniest productions of Shakespeare I have witnessed and was a unique twist on a classic Shakespeare play that left the audience smiling.
Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
A soft glow of twinkling lights illuminates the darkness as hushed chirps of crickets fill the air-- watch the magic unfold at South Lakes High School's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Written in the mid-1590s, William Shakespeare's comedy was originally set in Athens, Greece as the Duke Theseus and Hippolyta prepare for a wedding. The story follows four young Athenians: Hermia, Lysander, Helena, and Demetrius as their complicated love quadrangle takes them into the enchanted woods. Here lives the fairy king and queen Oberon and Titania, along with the fairies Puck and Robin Goodfellow who interfere with the four Athenians and complicate their love lives even more.
This production set the show in and around the Louisiana Bayou; Jonah Kossoy as Theseus and Ryleigh Line as Hippolyta performed with strong and consistent southern accents throughout. This setting change adds another dimension to the script, with the intertwining of three worlds: southern royalty, the common people, and the magical fairy realm.
Through high-intensity fight scenes and fast paced lines, the four Athenians interacted well together and played off one another to successfully move the scene along. Farrah Greeves amusingly portrayed a particularly dynamic and slightly unhinged Helena who really put the ‘crazy' in ‘crazy in love'. Greeves made clear choices with her character that made her emotional development throughout the story evident, while keeping her character's personality consistent.
The majestic king and queen of the fairies were portrayed by Aaron MacDonald and Maya Berry. MacDonald maintained an authoritative physicality for the role, towering over the rest and never dropping his kingly stature. Although he held a generally more serious demeanor, MacDonald was still able to create comedic moments with his character's reactions and movements, whether he was pretending to hide behind an invisible cloak or attempting to control Puck and Robin Goodfellow. This dynamic duo, Keaton Lazar and Emilia Cayelli, brought the delightfully mischievous fairies to life. The lovable sidekicks sustained sharp, animated movements while speaking and in reactions on the side. It was evident that they were extremely well rehearsed and consistently moved in tandem together, as if they shared one mind.
The wild acting troupe, the Mechanicals, made up the cast of a play-within-the-play that they perform at Theseus and Hippolyta's wedding. All the characters were portrayed with distinct personalities that, when brought together, allowed them to feed off each other's energy and work together as a cohesive unit. Ennis Shabab as Nick Bottom stood at the forefront of the acting troupe with constant comedic lines and timing. Shabab's portrayal of the earnest, yet air-headed character, earned laughs and cheers from the audience with most every line.
The work of the props team, Jacob Dally and Leah Blum, was one of the most integral pieces of this production. Puck and Robin Goodfellow played with hand-sewn and decorated voodoo dolls, representative of Lysander and Demetrius, as if the dolls controlled the boys' actions. This small feature did a fine job truly anchoring the Louisiana setting. Hannah Donis and the costumes team also displayed great attention to detail contrasting Lysander and Demetrius - the boys were dressed in pink and blue dress shirts, and later took them off to reveal white and black t-shirts underneath.
Overall, the fast pacing and high energy combined to prevent Shakespeare's dense verse from affecting the audience's comprehension as South Lakes High School brought magic to the stage.