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BWW Reviews: The Black Rep's Funkadelic Production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of the few Shakespearean plays that's considered totally original, not owing its story to any other source other than the Bard's imagination. It's a delightful romantic comedy with fun, supernatural elements, and unlike his many tragedies and histories, nobody dies. In the hands of The Black Rep, it's been transformed into an absolutely funkadelic experience. Director Chris Anthony has set this version in the 1970's, and as such, it's filled with wildly colored clothing from that period, and features snippets of dialog and music anyone who grew up in that era will recognize. It's also superbly performed.

Set in Athens, this tale follows Lysander and Hermia, who are very much in love. But, her father, Egeus, has promised her to Demetrius, a philanderer who's stolen the heart of Helena. When Lysander and Hermia decide to skip out on their own, they aren't aware that the forest they wander through is enchanted. A potion is wrongly delivered by the irascible Puck to Lysander causing him to fall head over heels in love with Helena, while the Queen of the fairies, Titania, is also given a dose that finds her enamored of Bottom, who has been given the head of an ass. Eventually, everything is resolved in satisfactory fashion, but it's a blast getting there.

While the entire cast is outstanding, there are a number of performances that are truly memorable. Chauncy Thomas and Courtney Brown are exceptional as the young lovers Lysander and Hermia, respectively. Both are energetic and up to the task at hand. Patrese McClain and Anthony Peeples are also quite good as Helena, and her reluctant suitor Demetrius. Robert Mitchell does strong work as Theseus and Oberon, and Monica Parks is also quite good as Hippolyta and Titania. Daniel D. Hodges is ingratiating as the mischievous Puck (and as Philostrate), and Matthew Galbreath is a minor riot as Bottom/Pyramus.

The rest of the cast is also worthy of mention with Ryan Cunningham, Phillip Dixon, Amy Loui, Candice Jeanine, Chad Morris, and Diamond Emelda Skinner providing terrific support.

Director Chris Anthony has inventively re-imagined Shakespeare in a unique and totally groovy way that retains the language (with a few key additions) and story, while embellishing it with some cool touches that are unforgettable. Choreographer Heather Beals has the cast moving and grooving in ways that fit this update in precisely the manner you'd want them to. Sarita Fellows contributes the costumes that recreate the disco era while remaining true to the Bard's vision. William Grant III's lighting is atmospheric, and Dunsi Dai's set conjures up an enchanted forest that also features a disco ball. Robin Weatherall's sound adds TV themes and music from the period that are spot on, and add immensely to the overall enjoyment of this work.

You won't want to miss the Black Rep's funky and fun rendition of A Midsummer Night's Dream. It's a magical trip through time, and it continues through March 4, 2012 at the Grandel Theatre.





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