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December 05, 1988 - Image 9

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1988-12-05

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The Michigan Daily --Monday, December 5, 1988 - Page9

t t C Z C J 1 'C t f 1 C! Z!! S 1! I I R! 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1! 11 1 1 1! 11

Bottom (Kabin Thomas) clowns around with his 'mechanical' cohorts in the University
Players' production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Roll over, William
U Players' Midsummer: Model madness


I suppose that if I had been a real Shakespeare nut,
or someone much accustomed to the usual Stratford
versions of Shakespeare, I would have run screaming
out of the University Players' A Midsummer Night's
Dream on Thursday. Traditional Shakespeare it defi-
nitely was not.
I had heard that the play would be "An updated
version that will cast a 20th century perspective on a
play that is almost 400 years old." This turned out to
be a real understatement.
The opening was very puzzling. The stage set
consisted of a number of sheets draped about the stage
like curtains, a statue of someone who looked vaguely
presidential, and a large gilt mirror frame suspended
about 15 feet above the stage. The actors entered
dressed in Dickensian clothing (velvet predominated),
and Demetrius (Ian Knauer) was carrying a large tuba.
By the time they reached the fairy wood, where
most of the enchanted story takes place, I was
perplexed enough to expect just about anything. In
contrast to the storybook fairies traditional to the
play, the cast of fairies in this version were repre-
sented as punk rockers and their groupies. My
heartiest congratulations go to Gary Decker and those
who worked on set design. As we are introduced to a
little bistro with a sax-playing fairy and a roller-
skating fairy, a large, metal, stage-like structure
swings out to reveal Titania (Sharon Rosin) and her
fairies dressed in full punk rocker style.
There were times when the interpretation became a
little gimmicky, and some of its charm wore off, as
the play went on for three hours, but it worked quite
well for most of the show. It was even carried to the
point where the "flower," which is the love potion
that causes so much confusion for the lovers, is
represented by a joint.

The hidden innuendoes in Shakespeare rarely come
out in performance of the plays, because the audience
doesn't expect it, and rarely listens well enough to
catch it. But because of the punk rockers' familiarity,
the delightfully dirty jokes with which Shakespeare
filled the play were more blatant.
One of Shakespeare's frequently-used stage tech-
niques, the play within a play, is used in A
Midsummer Night's Dream. The Mechanicals, a
group of tradesmen who are practicing a play to
perform for Duke Theseus at his wedding, are used as
comic relief to the confusion of the lovers. The best
of these was Kabin Thomas as Nick Bottom. Bottom
is a character who is constructed to steal all his
scenes, and Thomas played his part perfectly, inclu-
ding a terrific dying scene in which he staggered off
the stage and into a startled observer's arms. Ken
Weitzman also stole a few moments of sustained
hilarity as Francis Flute playing Thisbe.
The one major defect in Dream was Puck's final
soliloquy. Puck (played by three actors - Alexa
Eldred, Elizabeth Haas, and Casey Nelson - to
facilitate Puck's magical disappearances and
reappearances) was a delight througout the play,
dressed in a velvet hat and waistcoat, and riding a
dirtbike and blowing a whistle. However, he was sore-
ly slighted in his last speech, which was performed
after the audience thought the play was over.
Everyone was leaving as Puck ran out to give his
eloquent apology; since everyone was talking an(]
Puck's voice didn't carry terribly well, most of it was
The University Players have proven how timeless
Shakespeare can be by not changing a single line
from the original text - the words all made sense in
their new context. The Players' alteration greatly
enhanced one of Shakespeare's most oft-performed and
silliest comedies.

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