Bourbon, the Bard and Midsummer in the Middle of Winter
Bard & Bourbon assembles a fun outing with Shakespeare this weekend as it presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The humble studio space of the Tenth Street Theatre serves a comfortably snug evening with Shakespearian mirth. The friendly ensemble has a good time with the ancient comedy. The fun transfers well to the audience in an atmosphere that happens to also include one of the cast members drinking shots of hard liquor in front of the audience at intervals throughout the show in the interest of embracing a little extra chaos on the evening. For those wishing to engage in offstage alcohol, there’s some rather nice beer at the bar including a seasonal ale from Capital Brewing and a couple of standards from New Glarus.
There is but one man in the cast. (Odd that I hadn’t really thought about that until I sat down to write this. The energy Bard & Bourbon is developing onstage here is so fun that minor details like gender come across as being kind of irrelevant.) Anna Figlesthaler is suitably regal as both King Oberon and King Theseus. She radiates a calming confidence in the roles. Grace DeWolff finds some clever definition around the edges of the show’s energy as Queens Titania and Hippolyta. DeWolff makes the romance casually radiant with her specific portrayal of a character in love. DeWolff's Titania falling for a man with a donkey’s head is simple and believable. (Not many actresses can pull that off.) Chris Braunschweig makes this job a bit easier in a portrayal of Bottom that feels quite comically natural. So often the role of an overacting actor is...overacted. Braunschweig manages to keep the character well under control. Reva Fox is similarly pragmatic in her portrayal of playwright Peter Quince. She’s an actress playing a playwright looking to put on a show. There’s a very clean economy about her performance.
It’s a pleasure to see the beautiful spectrum of romantic love come across with such vibrant diversity in this ensemble. Danielle Levings and Samantha Martinson play a couple of guys from ancient Athena who get a bit tangled-up by magic and romance as they enter the Forest of Arden. Levings exudes strength and emotional courage as Lysander. Martinson renders a crafty confidence in the role of Demetrius. Magdelyn Monahan and Keighley Sadler play a couple of women who find themselves similarly entangled in the forest. Monahan has an irresistibly charming sense of passion in romantic love. Sadler has a sense of humor that moves in and around Shakespeare with smart bits of physical punctuation that add further sophistication to the comedy. As one of the rude mechanicals putting on the play-within-the-play, Monahan is given the rather interesting challenge of playing a man in the play who is playing a woman in the play-within-the-play. She’s a woman playing a man playing a woman and she makes it work with vividly nuanced comedy.
I loved Brittany Curran as Puck. This is the second time I’ve seen a woman play Puck in as many years and I would be happy if I never saw another man in the role. Curran wields a wildness as Puck that feels calm and well-mastered. Curran’s expressiveness as Puck is contrasted by her appearance as the Robin Starveling the tailor of the mechanicals. In the role of Starveling, she plays comedy of minimalism. Curran astutely allows a fedora, a pair of mirror shades and a Starbucks cup to play much of the role of Starveling. Funny stuff. Once again Shakespeare is a lot of fun this weekend thanks to another appearance by Bard & Bourbon.
Bard & Bourbon's A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs through Saturday, Jan. 28 at the Tenth Street Theatre on 628 N. 10th St. For ticket reservations and more information, visit Bard & Bourbon online.