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Review Roundup: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at American Players Theatre

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Review Roundup: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at American Players Theatre

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at American Players Theatre's newly renovated Hill Theatre features Jonathan Smoots as Theseus, Laura Rook as Hippolyta, Danny Martinez as Philostrate, Chike Johnson as Egeus, Melisa Pereyra as Hermia, Juan Rivera Lebron as Lysander, Nate Burger as Demetrius, Elizabeth Reese as Helena, Tracy Michelle Arnold as Quince, John Pribyl as Bottom, Andrew Rathgeber as Snug, Casey Hoekstra as Flute, Xavier Roe as Starveling, Ty Fanning as Snout, and Cristina Panfilio as Puck.

The show also features Gavin Lawrence as Oberon, Colleen Madden as Titania, Cher Desiree Alvarez as Peaseblossom, Eduardo Curley-Carrillo as Cobweb, Cage Sebastian Pierre as Moth, Josh Krause as Mustardseed, Eli Saperstein as Changeling Child, and Alejandro Cordoba, Elijah Edwards, Lauren Knutson, Jameson Ridge, and Dave Van Hallgren as Fairies.

Let's see what the critics had to say!

Mike Fischer, Journal Sentinel: In his program notes for the American Players Theatre production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream"- now playing in APT's outdoor amphitheater in Spring Green - director John Langs stakes the claim that there's no play better suited to this stage than "Midsummer." You'll likely agree after watching Langs' smart and splendiferous "Midsummer." It was the play that opened APT nearly 40 years ago; it was the play chosen to consecrate the new stage APT unveiled this year. Langs' "Midsummer" looks back at what was while celebrating this play's great theme: the transformations through which we continually change and grow... Featuring the twangling instruments showcased in co-composer Josh Schmidt's homage to the summer of love, these are among the most trippy and least scary woods I've experienced in any production of "Midsummer." But are they ever fun.

Aaron R. Conklin, Madison Magazine: APT's engaging in some back-to-the-future magic by mounting "Dream"-the very first play to grace the original Spring Green stage. Even without that historic tie, this an impressive and funny production... Murell Horton's fairy costumes are a triumph of imagination, a colorful explosion that bridges the gap between the natural and the magical world. There's the quartet of tendrils jutting from Titania's (Collen Madden) head; the guy with the bug eyes who looks like a colorful insect; and the cloven hooves that cap off Oberon's (Gavin Lawrence's) costume... The play's quartet of lovers feature a pair of core company vets (Nate Burger as Demetrius and Melisa Pereyra as Hermia) and a pair of newcomers (Juan River Lebron as Lysander and Melissa Reese as Helena). They all take good advantage of their comic beats. And those beats just keep coming. This is the first production of "Dream" I've seen where the forest takes an actual physical toll on the four lovers. They enter its environs clad as nobles and exit it after spending the evening as Puck's playthings with their tunics and dresses shredded and tattered, their hair mussed and their faces and bodies smudged with dirt. It's kind of a wonder that Theseus, Hippolyta and Philostrate (Danny Martinez) don't have them arrested as some kind of wild Bacchanal recruits.

Amelia Cook Fontella, Isthmus: There's an immense confidence and joy in this production. The actors are clearly having a ball. There's no better example of this than Cristina Panfilio as Puck, a rascally sprite who takes pleasure from messing with mortals. Panfilio's energy is electric. She gives 100 percent to every leap, mischievous grin and outburst, and it pays off in creating an unforgettable character who can be simultaneously wicked and whimsical... Music and dance are woven throughout the show. Choreography by Ameenah Kaplan is wonderfully frenetic with lots of stomping, accompanied by the beat of drums. The music (by Josh Schmidt) and movement help create an overall energy that is contemporary, youthful, and a little bit wild. That touch of wildness is what takes this iconic play and shakes it up a bit, drawing the audience's attention to new places: slightly darker ones where stomping feet start to sound like heartbeats, where magical flowers cause people to fall in and out of love, and where impossible relationships become possible.

Kimberly Laberge, The Cap Times: John Langs' direction of this classic piece brings everything that could be asked for and so much more. Patrons hike up a wooded trail in remote Spring Green, and out of the thicket APT's beautifully renovated Hill Theatre appears. The story of midsummer madness is a perfect fit, acting as a continuation of the journey already begun in the trek to the new space. Langs uses audience interaction to bring theatergoers directly into the world he's created with his versatile company and creative team... Crossing between the mortal world and the fairy kingdom is John Pribyl as Bottom. He comes onstage with seasoned swagger during the first act, as Bottom showcases his interpretation of each role in the play. The bravado and physicality with which Pribyl dissects his role evokes comic masters like Chevy Chase. Then, in being transformed, he embraces his outlandish character and grows even grander.

Paul Kosidowski, Milwaukee Magazine: It's in this spirit world that director John Langs works some of his freshest magic, aided to be sure by the imagination of his actors. Titania (Colleen Madden) is part fairy-queen and part dominatrix, and her ethereal charges (Peaseblossom and Mustardseed, et. al.) know not to get in the way of her stampeding libido. Cristina Panfilio plays Puck with wry wit, channeling Motown dance moves to celebrate her victories, and sporting a nifty set of wings that are one of the evening's best sight gags... The finale-the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe by the itinerant players-is as raucous and hilarious as you might expect. As Bottom, John Pribyl's comic performance is almost outdone by his Pyramus costume, an ingenious mélange of beer cans, hub caps and cookware. And the rest of the troupe hits all the right deadpan notes. Langs even remedies the working-stiff condescension of the scene by having everyone join in a thundering dance celebration to close the show. As the audience cheers suggested, they weren't the only ones having a good old time.

Photo: americanplayers.org

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