Best written reviews for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Part 3” performed by Lake Braddock Secondary School in Burke, Virginia. Reviewed on May 22, 2021.
You may watch this performance at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JofztDG9kBQ
James Madison High School
A mystical classic with a contemporary take: Lake Braddock Secondary continued their quadrennial tradition of performing Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream with a new take for each production. This year they approached the show with a modern rendition set in a pandemic in New York City.
The Cappies saw Act III of this marvelous production, which was composed of the end of Act IV and all of Act V in the traditional script. The story is the same, although there were a few changes to modernize the show. Theseus (Siam Salam) was the head of a huge conglomerate called AthensCorp and the lovers Hermia (Savannah Raeder), Helena (Elizabeth Lavallee), Ly Sander (Maggie Edwards), and D. Metrius (Wilson Weingast) were all employees of Theseus. Another change included the rude mechanics being referred to as the Rude Mechanical Theatre Company who were seen preparing and performing their show.
Given the current situation, the modern pandemic setting was a great way to execute this daunting show. Performing without an audience can be very difficult because live theatre feeds off the energy of a live audience. However, Riley Sheetz had no issues with energy in their portrayal of Nikki Bottom. They lead the Rude Mechanicals in their ridiculous production of Pyramus and Thisbe. In every scene Sheetz was in it was clear that they took their time to realize the character. They performed with nuance and wit; all of their jokes landed even in the difficult arrangement. Linus Brannam had a strong presence as Oberon. He acted with a dark and alternative nature that reinforced the modern New York setting. Lake Rusch was a joy to watch as Puck. They had a goofy and mischievous nature that was consistent throughout. Rusch's take on Puck's famous soliloquy was very successful. There are many different portrayals of the iconic soliloquy, and Rusch's version was full of carefree movement that created a caricature.
The energetic efforts of the actors were complemented by strong technical work. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Lake Braddock Secondary tackled the difficult task. The whimsical forest was designed by Sungah Kong and was full of lush greenery. The set was enhanced by the shifting light work by Katie Brusseau and sounds by Ant Mahnken. Brusseau lit characters in different shades that went with each character and also paid attention to the time of day. Mahnken added subtle sound effects like birds chirping that realized the forest setting.
There was also original music created and performed by Jake Sizemore. Sizemore's use of current language for the fairy song and lullaby was refreshing and furthered the modern setting. The costumes by Nora Jacobson were also appropriate for today's era. The attention to detail was evident; one noticeable costume moment was how Oberon's dark wardrobe complemented Titania's light theme. Jacobson also costumed the fairies in light or dark attire to show who the fairies served. Alex Odell's makeup work was fabulous. She introduced current trends to each character's look that added individuality. Ethan Feil handled the huge task of editing. He made it seem like actors were talking to each other and were physically next to each other even though they filmed in a socially distanced setting.
Shakespeare can often be difficult to understand, but the pace, acting, and tech made this show easy to comprehend. The pandemic setting was very unique and created a relatable experience. The current theme was accented by gender-neutral casting, setting an example of what modern theatre should be.
Riverside High School
Traversing the rocky roads that this year has brought to the entertainment industry, Lake Braddock Secondary School attempted to steer it back on course by continuing its tradition of performing Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. With the intention of maintaining safety and tradition, the unique combination of a live stage play tied with the more digital performance aspects seen throughout this year gave many opportunities for every facet of ingenuity to shine through. However, due to the length of the piece, only the third act was viewed in this specific period.
Starting near the end of a piece would usually lead to confusion; however, thanks in due part to seamless editing by Ethan Feil along with consistent lighting from Katie Brusseau every single image and line seemed to follow directly into the next even with the isolated performance aspect of the show. The unique method of recording Lake Braddock took (having performers record separately, and then editing the cuts together to make it seem connected) was certainly a daunting one. However, the intimacy brought about by it more than made up for the hardships that must have occurred to reach their goal. Having only single cuts to actors the entire performance might have become stale, which is where music composer and performer Jake Sizemore came in, utilizing music as a unique transitionary method between performance styles and blending the modern aspects of the show with its fantastical roots in his composition, utilizing an acoustic guitar with more modern musical styles.
Building off the technical ingenuity of the piece, actors were given many liberties within their performances and had only themselves to work with in scenes. The actors worked through this and gave a comedic and intimate performance. One such performer is Riley Sheetz, who played Nikki Bottom and was the epitome of success within this piece. They took the incredibly audience-interactive Nikki Bottom and made the same level of comedy play out through their own solo performance, which was incredibly admirable and difficult in their given circumstances. Being good at bad acting is certainly a niche issue, but the Mechanics and Bottom alike managed to artfully create such an awkward, train wreck of production in the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe. Something that would normally be seen as a negative was, in fact, an overwhelming positive in this scenario. To help with the continuity of the show, costumes and makeup were required to make sure the audience could ascertain who was who amongst the sharp editing. Alex Odell (makeup) and Nora Jacobson (costumes) both managed to tactfully design fantastical yet realistic costumes and makeup in order to further demonstrate the chosen time period. A clear instance of using makeup to differentiate characters was the continued use of colorful eyeshadow on fairies and the distinguished lack thereof on the humans within the piece. Similar to makeup, costuming of the fairies allowed the audience to more easily comprehend the incredibly complex story of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and also drew in modern aspects in the form of more alternative fashion for some of the fairies (most notably Oberon).
All in all, Lake Braddock's continued tradition of A Midsummer Night's Dream managed to take the aspects of performance seen in years prior and mesh it with the intricate editing and digital interfaces found within the pandemic to create a truly unique and immersive spectacle which, regardless of your background on the piece, allowed for comedy and heart to shine through.