St. Paul VI Catholic High School
A traveler wandering down a path into the mystical forest built by Lake Braddock's A Midsummer Night's Dream: Act II would stumble across more than a story of drama and intrigue; by peering around vines of ivy and stepping over winding roots, they would find a production of exceptional storytelling and remarkable technical elements. Lake Braddock High School took the Shakespearean classic and embellished it with modern features, not shying away from the context of the pandemic by setting the show in New York City during the year 2020. Beginning with The Rude Mechanicals conducting a rehearsal over Zoom and continuing into a forest scene where Puck finds trouble with the other fairies, Act II was packed with excitement and mystery.
The Rude Mechanical ensemble started off Act II as strong as it could be with each actor being fully engaged in the scene and working together as a coordinated team. Especially notable of the group was Nikki Bottom, played by Riley Sheetz, who delivered their lines with enthusiasm and energy. The Rude Mechanicals ensured that the comedy aspect of A Midsummer Night's Dream was not forgotten, both through their character choices and physicality.
As the scene shifted to a forest setting, a spectacle of new characters took center stage. Throughout Act II, the entire cast maintained a full commitment to the demands of Shakespeare's scenes and never once gave the camera less than what they were capable of as talented actors. One of the major caveats of performing a Shakespearean production is the ease at which the audience can get lost in the complexities of the plot, however, the cast achieved the difficult task of making each word understandable and the story easy to follow. Even the limitations of a pre-recorded production were virtually absent as the cast played their emotions wonderfully to the camera, which closed the physical distance between their characters with emotional intensity.
Linus Brannam playing Oberon did not let the dark nature of his character put a shadow on his powerful acting capabilities. He delivered his lines with a natural flow and showcased an alluring charisma fitting for his character. Playing off his character was Puck, played by Lillie Rusch. Rusch was similarly animated and lit up each scene that she was in as a fantastic leader and protagonist. Another character dynamic occurred between Helena, played by Elizabeth Lavallee, and Hermia, played by Savannah Raeder. Both Lavallee and Raeder clearly conveyed the vigor of their arguments back and forth, and each managed their anger levels smoothly and with seamless transitions to each new emotion.
Nora Jacobson's costume design for each character was done incredibly well, as she paid attention to both the small details as well as the overarching themes of each character. Additionally, Jacobson stayed true to the core Shakespearean roots while taking some creative liberty to adapt the costumes to a modern setting. Each new character had a costume that not only perfectly matched their personality but enhanced their performance and the story as a whole.
Other technical elements were similarly done beautifully: Puck's eye makeup by Alex Odell stood out in each scene and all the sound components, done by Ant Mahnken and Jake Sizemore, were seamlessly edited into the production by Ethan Fell. The backdrop also enhanced the performance by creating an illuminating purple color scheme.
The traveler- or rather, audience member- that entered the woods containing the magic of Lake Braddock's A Midsummer Night's Dream exited the woods a changed person, but it was a journey they were excited to take again.
Westfield High School
Places! Curtain-up! Donkey head! Wait- DONKEY HEAD? Yes, you heard that right! Lake Braddock Secondary School's exhilarating twist on A Midsummer Night's Dream Act II will have you up and out of your saddles- I mean seats.
Set in New York City during the pandemoniac summer of 2020, A Midsummer Night's Dream Act II is a modernized interpretation of the classic Shakespearean comedy. Following the story of four lovers bewitched by fairies, Act II opens in a rehearsal for a production of "Pyramus and Thisbe." Upon the return of Nikki Bottom, whose head had been transformed into that of a donkey, the rehearsal is abruptly terminated when the cast crumbles into a state of terrified disarray. Shortly thereafter, Titania confesses her potion-induced love for donkey-headed Nikki, and the audience is introduced to the plight of four complicated lovers entangled in a convoluted love triangle (or more fittingly, a love square).
Dating back 28 years, performing an adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream that reflects pop culture trends every four years is a Lake Braddock staple. Determined to maintain the tradition, the cast and crew worked tirelessly from October to February developing a strategy to combat the limitations of the pandemic; the result: a masterfully crafted, cohesive performance that reflected profound ingenuity and determination. From the flawless work of the editors to the actors' spunky characterizations, the passion for the show was evident, as there was never a dull moment.
Orchestrating much of the plot's conflict, the interactions between Oberon (played by Linus Brannam) and Puck (played by Lillie Rusch) made for a hilariously dysfunctional relationship that transcended the barrier of isolated recordings. Maintaining believable dialogue between physically separated actors is no small feat, but the pair overcame this obstacle effortlessly. Brannam's natural delivery of the Shakespearean text helped illustrate the plot, and Rusch's animated physicality and fun-loving humor allowed her to fully embody her capricious character.
Despite their brief appearance in Act II, the entire ensemble named the "Rude Mechanicals," brought individuality to their characters; collectively, their diverse range of personalities reinforced the energetic and nonsensical nature of the show. Riley Sheetz's spirited portrayal of the overbearing Nikki Bottom paired with Gillian Oliver's matter-of-fact and deliberately frustrated portrayal of Petunia Quince fueled a comic contrast between the two conflicting counterparts.
While the actors were successful in establishing and conveying their characters, countless technical enhancements brought a tremendous depth to the performance. To film the show, the cast and crew utilized a hybrid approach; they seamlessly combined both virtually filmed (via Zoom) and individual in-person recordings to tell the story. Through their thoughtful use of sound effects to support the plot, Ant Mahnken maintained an unwavering audio quality, and paired with Jake Sizemore's brilliant underscoring, the two ensured that the audio did not overpower the performance. Similarly, Ethan Feil utilized overlapping videos to illustrate coinciding events, and his smooth transitions established a cohesive plot. The beautifully crafted backdrop, painted by Sungah Kong, brought life to the whimsical forest, and Nora Jacobson's costuming plus Alex Odell's makeup execution distinguished and reinforced the many unique characterizations.
Through the show's comprehensive construction and comedic storytelling, Lake Braddock Secondary School's dynamic rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream Act II left the audience wondering if the four Athenians would ever find true love in the Big Apple. Until then, we are reminded that even amid hysterical chaos, "Jack shall have Jill. Naught shall go ill. The man shall have his mare again, and all shall be well."