October 28, 2013

A Review of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Loyola Academy

Ugh! Shakespeare again?! Hasn’t he been done to death?

Well, he’s been done and done a lot, but not to death. There are reasons why theatre troupes have done and will continue to put on his plays. They’re challenging, both in dramatic/comedic/physical requirements and in language comprehension for actors and audiences four centuries after he lived. We don’t speak as Hamlet did; Athenians didn’t speak in Shakespearean English 2,000+ years ago, either. So why continue to put his plays on? For the challenge, the enjoyment, the two hour escape from our reality, and, simply, because they’re great.

“Brilliant” is one of our overused and drained-of-real-meaning words, but the works of Shakespeare are brilliant in that they’ve cast light on our humanity and our conditions since the end of the 16th Century. His plays are among the most commonly done and re-done and “modernized”. Human love, folly, depravity all shine on stage through his lens and audiences since his time have enjoyed them. This past Friday at Loyola Academy I personally re-joined this almost-half a millennium tradition.

The Academy’s Thespian Troupe #4729 once again impressed me with their professionalism and energy in a constant call for stamina, both in mind and body. The physical display of choreographed movements by the three main dancers with fabric as well as the group of fairies was magical. They were present on stage but were not overbearing in their presence. They provided a harmony that helped convey me out of my seat in a high school theatrical auditorium in Wilmette, IL in the 21st Century and into a forest of unknown location and reality.

The main actors showed their abilities in their performances. While some had a better grasp of the flow of the dialogue in Shakespeare’s tongue than others, all of them kept up the energy level necessary to sustain the overall performance – a true group effort. Their endurance for the combination of speaking and moving about, running about, chasing, fighting was impressive. Also, the actors of the “play-within-the-play” conveyed all of the buffoonery, arrogance and love-ability  of the characters in the script.

In addition to the modern costumes, the occasional “slip” into our colloquial expressions like “Oh, snap!” and asking for the pass code from an actor with an iPad added humor to a great comedy – not an easy thing to do!

As with past performances I’ve seen at Loyola, the simplicity of the set was its strength. With the music, the movements, the smoke, flower pedals, moon, green fabric and lighting I never once doubted I was not in a forest. The presence of the Oberon, Titania, their entourage and Puck added that mystical environment that I’ve gotten when simply reading the play.

Thank you all for your involvement in the theatrical arts – the performers, the backstage, set, and lighting crews and the directors. As I’ve said before, it’s very heartening to see first hand the dedication to the arts at the high school level executed with such a professional flair. Well done.