Yes, I said disco; kind of like “Shakespeare meets Soul Train” as it says on some of the promotional material. I know, I didn’t think I’d like it either, but in the hands of Ms Anthony, Ms Beal, and a company of incredible actors, it was the best time I’ve had at the theater in a while.
The Fairy King, Oberon, played by Bob Mitchell and the Fairy Queen, Titania played by Monica Parks are having a disagreement. Oberon is determined to bend Titania’s will to his and she, of course, is just as determined to resist his demands. Their squabbling has upset the balance of nature in their forest realm and has allowed Oberon’s fairy mischief to plague the hapless humans of Athens.
One night two sets of muddled lovers, Lysander and Hermia, Demetrius and Helena find themselves deep in the enchanted wood. A company of craftsmen turned actors are also there attempting to rehearse their upcoming play. All these hapless humans mulling around his forest provide a wealth of entertainment for Oberon and his mischief – maker – in - chief, Puck. The lovers are jumbled into confusion by a magic potion administered by Puck at Oberon’s bidding, one of the would-be actors is bewitched and transformed into a man donkey, and even the fairy Queen herself falls victim to Oberon’s magic. As the long night wears on, the confusion and conflict deepen until Oberon, at last victorious in his war of wills with Titania, steps in and puts it all right again.
All very familiar for lovers of this literary classic but wait! There’s more!
There’s the irresistible disco beat, the stomp-rhythm dialogue, the incredible agility of the actors, and the energy of the cast. Who could resist the theme from “Sandford and Son” playing every time the workmen/actors come on the stage? There’s the cheeky fun of Matthew Galbreath as Bottom; the charm of Chauncey Thomas as Lysander and Anthony Peebles as Demetrius; the mischievous gleam and incredible agility of Daniel Hodges as Puck; the spunky persistence of Courtney Brown as Hermia and Patrese McClain as Helena; the nerdy sweetness of Amy Loui as the hapless director, Peter Quince; Candice Jeanine gives the best portrayal of a wall I’ve ever seen; Diamond E. Skinner rivals Bert Lahr in her interpretation of a lion; Ryan Cunningham and Phillip C. Dixon are simply amazing; the beautiful Monica Parks as Titania/Hippolyta is properly regal in her Diana Ross 1970’s super ‘fro wig; Bob Mitchell’s Oberon is artful theater at its best and the experience of Chad Morris as A Fairy is beyond description; but the icing on the cake is the actual performance of the play that the would – be actors have been trying to rehearse. It has to be seen to be believed.
We’ve come to expect innovation and excellence from the Black Rep, but this production is a stand out.