Brown Box Theatre’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” Drips with Humor, Actual Water

Presented by Brown Box Theatre Project
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Kyler Taustin

Aug. 23 – Sept. 1, 2013
Children Wharf’s Park, outside the Boston Children’s Museum
Boston, MA
Brown Box Theatre Project on Facebook

Can’t attend these performances in Boston? You’re in luck! Following their Boston performances, the Brown Box cast and crew will pack up their set and continue their tour on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware.

Review by Gillian Daniels

The last production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream I saw before Brown Box Theatre’s was The Donkey Show at the Oberon.  Where the Oberon’s version was a show infused with drugs, sex, the excesses of 1970’s disco culture, and go-go dancer boys with body glitter, Brown Box Theatre fills its show with the excesses of Elizabethan fairies and water basins liberally placed around its stage.  The long-running Donkey Show may be the toast of Cambridge, but Brown Box Theatre has captured a more vibrant energy in its traditional telling.Strongest when silliest, the Shakespearean comedy is what happens when the forest-dwelling king of the fairies, Oberon (Patrick Curran), and his servant, Puck (Juan C. Rodriguez), interfere in the complicated love lives of mortals.  The humans they encounter are already pretty well entangled in their own melodrama.  Hermia (Laura Menzie) is promised to marry Demetrius (Johnny Quinones) but loves Lysander (Kyle Cherry).  Demetrius, while chasing run-away Hermia, is pursued by Hermia’s resilient friend, Helena (the hilarious Chelsea Schmidt).

Meanwhile, King Theseus (Curran again) is getting married to Queen Hippolyta (Kate Paulsen).  Peter Quince (Emma Undine Wiegand) and a collection of players including the arrogant Bottom (a lively Jeffrey Marcus) hurry to put together a play for the wedding feast.  The play-within-a-play, Pyramus and Thisbe, is an excellent commentary on the chaotic productions of theatre, both in the Elizabethan Era and now.  Only perseverance and enthusiasm allow their show to thrive.  These actors playing actors, Flute (Gabriel Graetz), Snout (Rosalie Norris), Snug (Rebecca Schneebaum), and Starvling (Stephen Badras), have some of the funniest, best moments in the show.

Rodriguez as Puck also injects his share of humor and life into the story.  His manic glee at terrorizing humans is delightful. Of the cast, he seems most pleased to splash and be splashed.

Curran and Paulsen, however, are subdued. King Theseus and Queen Hippolyta, doubling as King Oberon and Queen Titania respectively, must breathe life into two very different royal couples at once.  Here, the only thing that seems to change are their wardrobes.  Their passions are left elsewhere, except maybe when Paulsen has to pretend she’s enamored with Marcus’s Bottom after a beastly transformation.

There’s a kind of magic to a free, outdoor production of Shakespeare, where anyone can stop by and watch or, in this case, peak from the windows of the Boston’s Children Museum.  The actors have an elasticity and warmth they might not have within the confines of a nightclub like The Oberon.  They must because they have to compete with verbose child patrons, their cell phone-toting parents, and, due to the proximity to the harbor of this production, seagulls.  Still, whatever challenges the venue presents, the actors are undeterred and use the material with pleasure and humor.

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