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BWW Review: Improv and alcohol meet Shakespeare for Drunk Classics: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DRINK

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BWW Review: Improv and alcohol meet Shakespeare for Drunk Classics: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DRINK
Cast photo by Samantha Karbelk

3rd Act Theatre Company continues their Drunk Classics tour series with A Midsummer Night's Drink. An obvious take on Shakespeare, this isn't the typical Shakespearean experience. And with these new and strange times, the scene is even more complex and different now. With the recent OKC city ordinance requiring everyone in public to wear masks, the actors are masked while they perform to the audience, also masked. Every patron submits to temperature checks upon entry, and seating is socially distanced per party.

The concept of Drunk Classics is to take a well-known script and turn it on its drunken head. 3rd Act Company member Dakota Lee Bryant has adapted Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream into this condensed, wine-soaked version. One cast member is voted by the audience to consume several alcoholic beverages prior to performing. The script is also interwoven with improv. The improv callouts are chosen by a facilitator, in this case Nicholas Toscani, and by two audience members in auctioned-off royalty seats up front.

The cast of players for this production are Kat Adams as Bottom, Summer Nolan as Puck, Dani Miller as Helena, Jerusha Brown as Hermia, Keegan Zimmerman as Demetrius, and Evan Mooney as Lysander. Mooney is the lucky drinker this Saturday night, and as the chosen drunk he also gets to call out improv edits as the show goes on.

Shakespeare's works are, especially for those who are not very well versed, difficult to follow. With masked actors, an audience that is at least six feet apart, and improv edits thrown in at random, the result is a hefty challenge for the performers to undertake. These cast members are pros, and they're up for anything.

Are masks and social distancing ideal for live theatre, absolutely not. But it is doable and manageable, and this cast is doing their best considering some very unforgiving circumstances. They also seem to still be having fun, and that's the whole point of this tour.

Adams is bold as Bottom, a strong performer and brave improviser. Nolan is spry and sharp as Puck. She's versatile and has a mouthful of Shakespearean lines to deliver, a feat even without a mask. Zimmerman has chemistry with everyone he shares the stage with, and even with audience members as he requests participation. Miller is slinky and sultry as Helena, in love with Demetrius and captivating the audience simultaneously. Brown as Hermia is independent and determined, love-stricken and proud. Mooney is, simply-put, a hoot. This supposedly drunk actor is as smooth and put-together as any other player, steady on his feet and un-swayed by any obstacles thrown at him.

If you already know and love Shakespeare very, very much, you'll know when to laugh, you'll recognize non-scripted moments, and you'll enjoy a favorite play in a whole new light. If you don't know Shakespeare at ALL (raising my hand), you may find yourself getting lost occasionally. But you will have a REALLY good time, and you won't mind if some of the plot gets lost along the way. If your goal is to enjoy some antics, watch a very enjoyable and talented performer get drunk, and experience a closely followed (yet heavily edited) script play out in a wildly unpredictable and rousingly funny evening, this is the show for you.

Improv adds another layer of complication to this play. It provides an immediacy of performance, a certain amount of bravery from the actors, and a lot of quick-thinking ability. One of the funniest moments of the night is when Mooney is asked to act out the scene as a "sexy seal". Mooney flops and claps, barking his lines, and somehow making the whole thing sexy.

The rest of the cast is equally emboldened by their improv. They know their lines well enough to veer off the script and still come back to it without losing a step. Adams is forced to perform a scene as a person with allergies, and at one point shouts "It's not Corona, I promise!" while sneezing and coughing into her mask. It's a moment of levity that brings a sigh of relief during these confusing and uncertain times.

Improv is typically a miserable thing to watch. Maybe it's a preference, but as a theatre reviewer, nothing gives me more anxiety than to sit through improv. However, I discover something new this night. Improv with trained actors is AMAZING. It's incredible to watch them add increasingly ridiculous details onto their performance and still perform, never breaking character. Okay, some breaking DOES occur. And really those are the best moments.

The world is darker right now than it has been in any of our lifetimes. This is an unprecedented time that has impacted everyone, but the performing arts have been hit especially hard. It's refreshing and reassuring to see a theatre company that is still striving to offer productions for their artists and patrons to enjoy. Safety and comfort remain key, as well as minding any new CDC and local government guidelines. I won't say it is completely without unease that I step into Water's Edge Winery to watch this play, but my nerves are quickly relaxed when I see how stringently the rules are being followed. This is just how we live now, with fear.

And with that fear comes a lack of laughter, a lack of enjoyment. Taken from us for too long has been the ability to sit next to a stranger and share a moment of lightness without the moment being tinged with fear and uneasiness, of uncertainty and general malaise. A Midsummer Nights Drink gives us laughter again. It gives us a moment to relax, to breathe, perchance, to dream.

A Midsummer Nights Drink, the latest in 3rd Act Theatre Company's Drunk Classics series, continues until July 25th. For info on venues and tickets, visit 3rdacttheatreco.com.


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From This Author Adrienne Proctor