Queens Players delight with madcap ‘Midsummer’

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It seems that Katherine M. Carter, the director of the Queens Players’ adorable version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” remembered that the important word in the play’s title is “dream.”

Thus, she not only has a dreamy set draped in white linens and softly lit by Lisa Hufnagel, but has costume designer Jeni Ahlfeld dress the cast in pajamas and white ankle socks; Bottom and his men appear in scarlet onesies.

The playfulness is further enhanced by having Snug the Joiner (Timothy Williams) a very tall bloke, carry around a teddy bear. Snug even has a little matching mane made for Teddy when he plays the lion in Pyramus and Thisbe.

The morning is greeted by the songs of birds — kudos to sound designer Jillian Marie Walker. The Bard would have approved.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is one of Shakespeare’s dopier comedies. Though it has a couple of authoritarian male figures, namely Theseus, duke of Athens (Brandon Hillen), and Egeus, father of Hermia (Charles Baker), it has none of the discordance or “slut horror” of a work like “Much Ado About Nothing.” Keeping with the title, it’s 99 percent moonlight and fluff.

The plot is this, sort of: It’s close to the duke’s wedding to Hippolyta, played by the charming Heidi Zenz, but he’s beseeched by Egeus, whose diminutive daughter Hermia (Angelica Duncan) wants to marry Lysander (Joe Mullen), the man she loves, and not Demetrius (James Parenti), the man her father wants for her. The Duke warns Hermia that the penalty for such disobedience is death or being sent to a nunnery. In the meantime, Demetrius is being aggressively wooed — nowadays one might say stalked — by the lovestruck Helena (a wide-eyed Katie Braden), who he doesn’t care for in the least.

On another plain of existence, the fairy king Oberon (Randy Warsaw, in slinky purple silk and guyliner) and his queen, Titania (Tiffany D. Turner, proud and dignified till she wakes up in love with the transmogrified Bottom), aren’t getting along because he wants her to release her page to his service. She doesn’t want to.

Because of her stubbornness, Oberon sends his servant Puck (a Goth and impish Ahlfeld), to bewitch Titania with a love potion so she falls in love with the first ugly thing she sees upon awakening from her nap. Puck also mistakenly bewitches Lysander, because (s)he mistakes him for scornful Demetrius. And Bottom (an appropriately scenery-chewing Chris Kateff) and his men (Andrew Ash, Timothy J. Cox, Charlotte Layne Dunn, Miriam Mintz, and Williams) are putting on a play based on Pyramus and Thisbe, a more tragic tale of bad timing and misunderstanding, for the Duke’s wedding.

All this is an excuse for the cast to not only show their acting chops but gambol about the little whitewashed stage like babies. The rehearsals for the play-within-a-play are only matched in hilarity by the near-brawl between Hermia and Helena after both Lysander and Demetrius are bewitched into falling in love with the latter.

Duncan plays Hermia, who thinks she’s being dissed because she’s short, like a wet cat with the evening crazies. (“How low am I, thou painted maypole?” she screeches at Helena. “Speak! How low am I? I am not yet so low but that my nails can reach unto thine eyes!”)

Parenti and Mullen play the boys as wonderfully disdainful, pugnacious and lovesick. Also good are Titania’s servant fairies (Sarah King and Trish Phelps), who think nothing of waiting on a man with the head of jackass. Perhaps they think this is normal for mortals?

This most delightful and inventive “Midsummer” will be running through Jan. 3 (they skip Christmas) at the Secret Theatre. They call it the Secret Theatre because it’s a few blocks from the Citicorp building, and hidden behind a loading bay, but they’ll have a sandwich board outside on the street. It’s a summery joy, perfect for a winter’s evening.

If You Go

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

When: Dec. 16-19, Jan. 1-3 at 8 p.m., Dec. 19 and 20 at 3:30 p.m.

Cost: $15 general admission, $10 students

Where: The Secret Theatre, 44-02 23rd St., Long Island City

Contact: 718-392-0722


Posted 6:29 pm, October 10, 2011
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