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Review: Bare Bodkins Theatre Company brings Shakespeare to life with A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

Review: Bare Bodkins Theatre Company brings Shakespeare to life with A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

Bare Bodkins Theatre Company brought Athens to Sioux Falls, SD in a staging of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM at Falls Park. It may have been a blistering 95-degree night but that didn't stop theater goers from coming out for this enjoyable performance of a Shakespearian classic. Bare Bodkins has been on a mission to produce Shakespeare in a fun and accessible way for twenty-one summers. They seek to honor Shakespearian stage practices in their performances, utilizing contemporary costuming, audience participation, an arc stage set up, small casts who play multiple roles based on genderblind casting, and using simple sets and props. The latter was well utilized here during a scene where Oberon (Casey Ring) and Puck (Tristan Love) munch on boxes of popcorn as they watch the four Athenian lovers quarrel.

It's easy to forget how nice outdoor theater can be sometimes. This production was set in the midst of the surviving ruins of the historic Queen Bee Mill, allowing audience to enjoy the show from the grass or one of three bleachers placed around the staged area - all with open sky above. This atmosphere provided an intimate experience for the audience that made for an enjoyable evening of theater.

Written by William Shakespeare, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM intertwines four storylines the come together one summer's night in the woods. As Hippolyta and Theseus (Nadine Purvis Schmidt) prepare for their upcoming nuptials, forbidden lovers Hermia and Lysander flee Athens to save their love when Hermia's father disapproves. Helena leads her unrequited love Demetrius (Jeff Larsen), who happens to be in love with Hermia, into the woods after them. It is then that these two couples become caught up in a love quadrangle thanks to meddling sprite Puck and fairy king Oberon. While asleep Puck rubs a magical flower over the eyes of the Athenian men that causes them to fall in love with the first living thing they see once awake. This causes problems for both couples as now Lysander and Demetrius are both in love with fair Helena, fighting over her instead of Hermia as they were earlier in the play.

While Hermia and Helena have their moments of tension throughout the show, the interactions between Martha Stai as Hermia and Alex Newcomb-Weiland as Helena were consistently enjoyable. The two women played off of each other well from early on when Hermia gives Helena advise on how she 'won' Demetrius' love all the way until the end of the show as they squabble over their men's attention. Stai was a consistent joy, giving life to each of her four characters through different mannerism and voices that helped the audience clearly identify which character she was portraying at the time beyond subtle costume or prop additions. Newcomb-Weiland was captivating with her range of facial expressions and consistent eye contact; she was a joy to watch and brought liveliness to the role of Helena.

Also, in the woods we find the unexpected coupling in the Fairy Queen Titania, also entranced by the magical flower, and thespian Nick Bottom, who is in the midst of practicing for Hippolyta and Theseus' wedding when Puck turns him into an ass. While each cast member took on the challenge of playing multiple roles most had one role that stood out over the other ones. Drake Zuschlag, however, captured my attention with two of his roles, providing strong and memorable performances as both Lysander and Nick Bottom.

Shakespeare can have a reputation for being dry and wordy without much humor and lots of drama, I thoroughly enjoyed the humor throughout this production. It was clear from the beginning that the actors were excited by this material and that excitement translated to the audience. Thank you to Bare Bodkins for bringing quality Shakespeare to Sioux Falls for the past twenty one years!

Photo Credit: Bare Bodkins Theatre Company

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