Thursday, November 13, 2014

Review of CPS Shakespeare!: A Midsummer Night's Dream at Chicago Shakespeare

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called A Midsummer Night's Dream. It was directed by Kirsten Kelly and it was written by (has anyone heard of this name before?) William Shakespeare. This was a program for teenagers who go to Chicago Public Schools all around the city so they can learn about Shakespeare and have a big fancy performance at the end. I think that this is a great idea and it worked out really well. I thought the performance was very great and inspiring. They performed their hearts out! I had so much fun at this show.

I really liked the idea of having parts played by multiple people so then all the different people can experience it in a bunch of different ways. If you're in the show you might play Oberon and Puck and Starveling at different times. They would have articles of clothing that were just like the ones worn by the other people playing the same character. That made the audience understand what character they were seeing talk. And that makes it sort of tricky for me personally as a reviewer to remember which actors played which roles in which moments. So I'll be talking about characters instead of actors, but I want to say that I liked all of the performances very much.

I really liked the scene where Hermia and Helena were having a fight as well as Demetrius and Lysander. The fight choreography was by Matt Hawkins. I think it looked really amazing. The teenagers were amazing fighters. One of my favorite parts of it was when Helena and Hermia were fighting and suddenly Helena needed help, and another version of her (another student playing the same role) came out and started fighting too. And then, Hermia needed help, so another version of her came out. And the same with the boys. They weren't being replaced at first, both versions were fighting. And then the people who had been fighting at first would leave and Helena 2 and Hermia 2 would continue on. That was so fun because it just seemed so nonsensical and amazing. It drew your attention to how everyone was switching parts all the time.

I thought that the Pyramus and Thisbe scene was hilarious. You can't really go wrong with this scene. It is just great. I really loved the moment where Pyramus/Bottom came out riding on his horse but it was just a small stuffed horse. And then once he got off it, it would fall over sometimes. And just this tiny little horse to be standing there, wobbling and then falling over, was just hilarious. And then Bottom would come back over, realize it had fallen over, and pick it up again. It made Bottom seem very clueless as to how to cope with something going wrong in a performance, and that is the perfect way to play Bottom. What The Wall looked like was basically a teenager wearing a shirt that said "The Wall" who was listening to music while trying to do a play at the same time. I thought that was pretty funny. Moonshine was very funny, because she was very sassy. And that is the best kind of Moonshine: a sassy Moonshine. The Lion was very funny because she said, "I am the Lion" and then gave out the tiniest little roar possible. I think Snug needed some Katy Perry music at that moment!

One of my other favorite moments was when Philostrate was talking about the different options that they had to see a play and one of them was “The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals / Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage.” And then as he said "tearing the Thracian singer in their rage," there were these people dressed in very Shakespearean clothes, like with the feathers in their hats, and they started clawing in the air like they were tearing a Thracian singer in their rage! I liked that a lot, and I thought it was very very very funny.

People who would like this show are people who like Shakespeare, Chicago Public Schools, and tipsy Bacchanals tearing Thracian singers in their rage. This was a great experience for me and I think for the students and their teachers and the artists that worked on it as well. Watch for it next year! It was great!

Photos: Liz Lauren

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