Quince Orchard High School
A hallowed tradition gets a new spin, leading to another triumphant year of mischief in the woods. Act one of Lake Braddock Secondary School's ingenious production of A Midsummer Night's Dream embodies accommodation in the most unprecedented of times.
A Midsummer Night's Dream, by William Shakespeare, has had plenty of time in the cultural spotlight. A 17th-century literary classic, the show details a whimsical cast of characters whose shenanigans spin webs of conflict and romance. In a clever new take, the traditional setting collides with the pandemic, creating a business merger and several genderswapped characters.
As a whole, the cast handled the notoriously challenging material with impeccable expertise. The acting, brimming with intention and drama, called to mind a professional performance. Titania, played by Ella Fosse, carried her character with a sense of debonair and elegance. Played in vigorous contrast, Linus Brannam offered an audacious and cunning Oberon to the refined Titania. In a like manner, the genderswapped Nikki Bottom, played by Riley Sheetz, was an absolute brazen delight. They issued forth a fluidity seldom present in young actors, in both their comedic delivery and acting.
Though all the actors should be lauded for their work on this piece, Savannah Raeder, who played Hermia, undeniably stood out from the pack. Portraying part of a same-sex couple while lacking canonical context for the relationship is no easy undertaking. However, Raeder did a fantastic job portraying the sensitivity and nuance required of someone in love all while masterfully reinterpreting the broader context of the relationship.
In any good show, the production design must complement the talents of the actors. This production was no exception. Gentle and whimsical, filled with lush draping greenery, the set made no compromises on beauty or function. Sungah Kong created a set sure to take the breath away of any viewer. Alongside this, Katie Brusseau must be commended for her soft lavender light that fostered an air of magic throughout the show. The final complimentary piece was the forest sounds, which lent a fantastical ambiance to the show and were contributed by sound designer Ant Manken.
The environment of the production was only improved by the brilliant costume and makeup design by Nora Jacobson and Alex Odell respectively. Jacobson's costumes are a fascinating variation on the modernized street clothes look. The fairies sported a style that was light and flowing, reminiscent of the simple harmony of nature. In contrast, Oberon's costuming followed his characterization and employed a confident black grunge look complete with a graphic tee. The quality of the makeup rivaled that of the costumes with Puck's horns seeming as if they were an organic extension of the actor.
Like any good piece of theatre, Lake Braddock's A Midsummer Night's Dream serves as a reminder that enduring works such as Shakespeare possess the potential to constantly be reinterpreted in daring and ever-relevant ways. Longtime Shakespeare fans and newcomers alike are sure to enjoy this fascinating variety on a beloved masterpiece.
Oakton High School
Shakespeare set in the summer of 2020? Grab your pajama pants, whipped coffee, and hand sanitizer because Lake Braddock High School's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream Acts 1 and 2 is worth spending precious screen time on. The classic mixed up love story takes a new twist as it is portrayed through the lens of two businesses working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. But don't be fooled, this beloved tale is not just a business-as-usual zoom call. The creativity of the technical elements, the attention to detail, and the commitment to character made the show as sweet as finding a store still stocked with toilet paper.
The medium-sized cast was full of noteworthy performances. Starting with a tiny, but mighty, ensemble: The Rude Mechanicals theatre troupe. Actor Riley Sheetz portrayed Nikki Bottom as a dedicated, over-the-top, and dramatic member of the troupe through her impressively animated facials and laugh out loud character voice. Their enunciation and physicality proved vital to making Shakespeare's humor easy to follow. Moreover, actress Gillian Oliver, playing Petunia Quince, reacted perfectly to Sheetz's unwavering dramatics. Her comedic reactions and no-nonsense voice allowed her to effectively depict a mature businesswoman who was not paid enough to deal with Sheetz's antics. Two other actors with equally commanding voices were Ella Fosse and Linus Brannam (Oberon and Titania). This helped make their status as king and queen very apparent. They also had fantastic "anti-chemistry"; their arguments were addicting and perfectly witty. Similarly, Jake Sizemore put everyone to sleep, in a good way, as the Rastafairy. He was very skilled at guitar and had a beautiful voice which put the fairies right to sleep. Indeed, one of these fairies stood out from the rest. Puck, performed by Lillie Rusch, truly embodied the sheer amount of spirit that is expected of this character. She was enthusiastic, spritely, and very vibrant. While these individuals contributed greatly, the show would not have been as passion-filled without every member of this polished ensemble.
In addition, the show benefited greatly from the use of detailed and creative technical elements. First, the costumes and makeup were essential in differentiating the many types of characters. From forest fairies, to businesspeople, to an ensemble of Rude Mechanicals, Nora Jacobson and Alex Odell did fantastic jobs meeting each character's specific costume and makeup needs. Next, the forest's soundtrack (Ant Mahnken), the lovely backdrop (Sungah Kong), and the lights (Katie Brusseau), that looked like they were coming through a cluster of branches, set the scene for an engaging and magical home for the fairies. Additionally, the attention to details like creating a logo for the company or changing the character's names slightly showed the crew's dedication to their specific vision of this famous story. Finally, none of this would have meant much had the show not been edited so well. Every shot was clear, visually appealing, and incredibly done by student technician Ethan Feil.
The well-rounded actors, creativity of the technicians, and the hard work from everyone created the great successes of this show. All in all, it was magical, captivating, and visually stunning even in its cut down state of just two acts. As much as the world is glad to have moved past the summer of 2020, it was funny and relatable to see one of Shakespeare's most popular works set so close to home.