BWW Review: OrangeMite Studios Is Doing the Best Shakespeare You Haven't Seen
Every year when the Broadway World award nominations come out, there's always at least one space, and costuming is frequently involved, for OrangeMite Studios. Invariably, we're asked by people, "what's an OrangeMite?" and we usually reply "a place we need to get to review." Located in Dover, with the summer season in a charming converted barn and winter at Dover Area High School, it's the only community theatre in the area with a "nearly all Shakespeare, all the time" schedule, Shakespeare camp for kids, and other classics such as CYRANO DE BERGERAC to shake things up a bit, with a cast of both locals who do nothing else, and veterans of York Little Theatre, Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg, DreamWrights and other community theatres interacting with them. If you haven't checked them out, then yes, you need to. Artistic director William Wolfgang puts out an ambitious schedule each year, costumed by Mary Snow.
The current production in the barn, on Tall Fir Drive, is JULIUS CAESAR, as lavishly costumed as its previous productions, and boasting a cast of area community theatre veterans including Marisa Hoover as Portia and Ryan Szwaja, who plays a particularly fine Mark Antony.
The barn is a small theatre with a central floor stage and a balcony, and not many seats, but all provide fine views. The doors open wide, allowing those in the front to see peripheral action outside, which in this case allowed Cassius (Jeff Gilbert, doing some exceptional work) and Brutus (Dan Griffin) to meet in the center of the barn as war raged outside. The war was choreographed courtesy of local fight expert Dan Burke, working with OrangeMite as well as with the theatres in Harrisburg.
OrangeMite runs a mixture of ages, perhaps more so than most community theatre productions, but with the numbers of extras that most Shakespearian theatre calls for, one can rarely have too many soldiers, citizens, or other supernumerary parts that can be taken by younger, high-school age performers without affecting the overall quality of the production. It is encouraging to see the number of younger performers happy to be in a Shakespearian production, as well as audiences turning out to see them on stage and to encourage them.
The OrangeMite abridgement allowed for five acts, with one intermission, running a reasonable approximate two and a half hours total. The pacing was steady, and reasonably tight, and the fight choreography was worth the wait, as were Caesar's (Collins Wilson's) assassination and Mark Antony's funeral oration, invariably a highlight of any decent production of the play. Kudos, however, to Jeff Gilbert, whose Cassius dominated the stage, and to William Wolfgang, the director, who took the small but engaging part of Artemidorus, the scholar who attempts to warn Caesar of the plot.
JULIUS CAESAR is on at the barn through May 29, followed by the Shakespeare camp's production of HENRY VI, PART I and then by THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR in September. For information, visit the OrangeMite Facebook page or their website, orangemite.org.
If you haven't discovered them yet, they're worth your investigation, especially if you need more than Harrisburg Shakespeare Company's schedule alone to feed your Shakespeare cravings (you know you have them). OrangeMite is doing yeomen's work for a community theatre, and the results are worth your seeing. While their barn may not be The Globe, it's easy enough to picture a group of travelling players playing in barns in the English countryside, so the effect of the semi-outdoor rustic setting will not disappoint in the least.