BWW Feature: SHAKEN-SPEARE: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM with Cue Zero Theatre Company
It's safe to say that there have been hundreds of takes on every Shakespeare play. Have you ever found one that caught you so off guard, you're left contemplating if musical theater is still your biggest interest? This is the surprise impact of Shaken-Speare: Midsummer Night's Dream, being put on by Cue Zero Theatre Company. It is taking place for a limited run at Jupiter Hall in Manchester, NH. As of this publication, the only remaining shows will be held on Friday, October 11th, and Sunday, October 13th.
Surely you're wondering what makes this performance so unique. The script is the classic Midsummer tale that we all know and love (or pretended to know and love in high school English at least). The catch? The actors will not receive their characters until the night of the performance. Through random placement of envelopes containing actor's headshots, three audience members help deliver the verdict of who will play which roles. Different actors perform each night, so each performance is truly a unique experience. Jupiter Hall is an exclusive performance space, tucked away on Hanover street. Besides offering open gallery time and art exhibits, it has the option to be used as a long hall. In the case of Shaken-Speare, it was converted into a three-quarter thrust performing space for the actors. This brought the audience directly along for the ride, and gave them an intimate experience with the set of the characters the actors created.
These characters are not like any Midsummer characters seen before. Most notably were the two young female characters, Hermia and Helena, played on October 5th by Michael Wood and Michael Bunie. It would be easy enough to play these characters as over the top caricatures of women. Mike Wood developed Helena into a heavy footed, whiny woman, who for most of the show took pity on herself and wasn't afraid to show it. Mike Bunie, portraying the lovely Hermia, chose to play her as short and eager. How did he come to "play short"? He performed the entire show on his knees. This choice made some of the later exchanges between Helena and Hermia even more ripe, as she [Hermia] refers to herself as "small". In the case of Cue Zero's performance, she literally was. Neither performer utilized exaggerated female personas, but instead simply built on personality cues littered through the script.
It is previously stated that actors are given "roles". That is because each actor is responsible for multiple parts in the play-some as many as four roles throughout the duration of the show. This visual change is done with simple wigs, hats, and costume pieces, but the noticeable change is in how the actors choose to play each separate character. A wig can only do so much, but the merry crew of actors that director Dan Pelletier has assembled are full of surprises, and make noticeable changes between their different characters.
The artistic director of Cue Zero Theatre Company, Dan Pelletier, mentions at the beginning of the show how this play came to be as an attempt to bring new challenges to Shakespeare. Random Casting? A three quarter performance space? New actors each night? It is safe to say that these choices certainly brought new challenges. These choices have crafted a delightful and hilarious show. Two remaining performances will run at Jupiter Hall in Manchester, NH on Friday, October 11th at 7:30pm, and Sunday October 13th at 2:00pm.