Andrew Hamm: the Bipolar Express

Ruminations on theatre, music, and just about anything else that crosses my bipolar brain.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Belated Reviews for Midsummer "Midsummer"

From Style Weekly:

Getting Some Fairy Tail

Richmond Shakespeare’s "Midsummer" adds pop culture to a play that is sexy or innocent, depending on what you’re looking for.
by Mary Burruss
Five actors populate the "Midsummer" forest with nearly two dozen characters, all more or less excited about getting together.

Sensual is the word that summarizes the Richmond Shakespeare Festival’s version of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," Shakespeare’s ode to love. It is steamy yet playful, capturing the giddiness of young lovers and proving my companion’s point that "Shakespeare is all about hooking up." But this show is not just for grown-ups; several children in the audience thoroughly enjoyed themselves, laughing often while the sexual innuendo sailed harmlessly overhead.
Part of the fun of the play is Shakespeare’s observations of the incompatible behaviors of men and women engaged in timeless entanglements. To emphasize the differences between the sexes, director Andrew Hamm casts three voluptuous goddesses to contrast with his muscular males. The five-player ensemble -- Sandra Clayton, Brandon Crowder, Stacie Rearden Hall, Kerry McGee and Adam Mincks -- displays remarkable versatility and physicality as they play 22 human and mystical characters with Richmond Shakespeare’s trademark modern-day adaptations.
All of them sing, act and move marvelously well, but Crowder amazes with his spiderlike embodiment of Oberon and McGee shines as the mischievous, childlike Puck. Hall sings a mean rendition of "Let’s Hear it for the Boy" during intermission and Egeus will never sound the same again without Clayton’s expert Boston accent. Minks gets high marks for his Bottom (no pun intended).
While Hamm’s use of pop-culture references and music amplifies the fun-loving spirit of the show, an added original song at the close drags out the ending. And although the play-within-a-play is so hilarious it prods shrieks of laughter from the audience, it could use some editing. But aside from that, there is not a better way to spend a midsummer night.

"A Midsummer Night’s Dream" plays through July 12 at Agecroft Hall at 8 p.m. Gates open at 7 p.m. for picnics. Tickets are $25. Visit or call 866-BARD-TIX.

From The Richmond Times-Dispatch:

Irreverent ‘Midsummer’ is so hilarious it hurts

Published: July 5, 2009
One-line review: I laughed so hard at Richmond Shakespeare's new production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" that I got a headache.
The perennial favorite of Richmond Shakespeare and the Shakespeare canon itself is back for a short run at gorgeous Agecroft Hall. Andrew Hamm directs this time, pushing the comedy and mayhem way past any previous boundaries of taste, propriety, reverence for the Bard and other annoyances.
We have here a cell phone and a drag queen, imitations of William Shatner and Christopher Walken, a Macbeth-worthy Scottish accent and a half-witted Starveling with a stick. It's just nuts.
Hamm uses the company's customary five-actor approach, which guarantees craziness as two men and three women take on 21 roles, switching dizzily from one part to another with just a change of hat or vest.
When you pursue the comedy this strenuously, you get the laughs you want, but there's a cost. The rest of the play -- romances and rivalries among Theseus and Hippolyta, Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, Oberon and Titania -- seem like arid patches that have to be gone through to get to the next guffaw. That's unfortunate, because the actors do admirable work with language, with distinctions among roles and with movement. But subtlety suffers as too many speeches are delivered at top volume.
All five actors expend staggering amounts of energy. Sandra Clayton does a broad Boston accent as Egeus and is hilarious as the wall in the play within the play. Stacie Rearden Hall projects majesty and sensuality as Hippolyta and Titania; she does a nutty foreign-accented Snug and a desperate Helena. Kerry McGee's Hermia is petulant and her Puck unique, more demented and disorganized than crafty. Like her cast-mates, she throws herself into her roles with breathtaking physical abandon.
But the guys dominate the proceedings through sheer forcefulness. Adam Mincks acts largely with his deltoids, doing a callow Demetrius and a relentlessly preening Bottom. When he appears as Pyramus in Julie White's fabulous hardware-store armor, he blows the audience away with mirth. And Brandon Crowder is the prime chameleon here, with four big roles. He's imperious and randy as Theseus, lovelorn as Lysander and mesmerizing as Oberon. But his shameless Flute is beyond hysterical and was the main cause of my laughter headache.
For the first time, the Rebecca Cairns/Ann Hoskins costumes are lackluster, but J. David White's lighting is luscious, especially in the woodland scenes. And the fairy puppets are imaginative but not particularly effective.
Richmond Shakespeare moves its indoor season to Center Stage in the fall. I hope the place is well-built, because this company might bring down the house -- with laughter.

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