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Course of true love runs smooth; Redfeather's Shakespeare is lark.

Byline: Paul Kolas

COLUMN: THEATER REVIEW

WORCESTER - If only Puck, Oberon and their fellow fairies had the power to provide the sort of beatific weather that finally enveloped the Memorial Grove Amphitheater in Green Hill Park on Friday. After three days of inclement frustration, Redfeather Theatre Company presented a magnificently lucid depiction of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," a theatrical cornucopia bursting at the seams with impish vitality and marvelous invention.

Director Edward Isser ingeniously moves the story of mismatched lovers, originally set in ancient Athens and a nearby magical forest, to what seems to be the early 1960s.

For those who steer clear of Shakespeare's works for fear of incomprehension or ennui, the author has never been so hip or so much fun. Purists are advised to relax, have an open mind, and enjoy themselves. Athenians now wear everything from tuxedos and gowns, to jeans, T-shirts, tennis shoes, and red high heels.

Matt Brown, who plays Lysander with comb-carrying, swaggering charm, could easily pass for one of John Travolta's pals in "Grease."

Emily Rast complements Brown perfectly with her dazzling, sexually charged performance as his sweetheart, Hermia. Defying the edict of her father, Egeus (sharply etched by Joseph Finneral), to marry Demetrius (Jason Frank), Rast's Hermia is one Athenian girl who refuses to be objectified or cave in to cultural obeisance. Her best friend, Helena (Lauren Doucette), is also determined and emancipated in her own way. Jilted by Demetrius, she chases him into the forest to pursue him at any cost.

Love in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is described in many ways, including as a "sickeness" by Demetrius, but it's clear that as ephemeral and maddening as it is, love matters more than society's dictates.

It's no surprise that everyone is matched up at the end as they should be. It's the getting there that makes the play such a splendid lark. Despite the squabbles he's having with his Fairies Queen Titania (Emily Holmes) over possession of her "changeling," Fairies King Oberon (John Keller) tries to set things right between Demetrius and Helena by having his servant, Puck (a nicely droll Kurt Hultgren), apply a magical love juice from a flower on the eyelids of Demetrius, a potion that will cause someone to fall in love with the first person he or she sees upon awakening from a fairie-induced sleep.

Unfortunately, Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius, and it eventually comes to pass that both of them declare their love for the disbelieving Helena. Poor Hermia is left out in the cold until all confusion is happily righted. As convoluted as things may seem, made more so by the play-within-a-play subtext, it's remarkably easy to follow the course of events.

Isser works wonders with the entire cast, who are clearly having a great time of it, none more so that Mel Cobb, who is staggeringly entertaining as Bottom, the lead actor in the troupe hired to perform before the Athenian Duke Theseus and his bride-to-be, Hippolyta.

Raffishly ogling the ladies - playing up to the bewitched adoration of Titania, while burdened with a donkey's head, and joking with his fellow thespians and testing his director Quince's (astutely portrayed by Steve Vineberg) patience - Cobb is a dominating presence on the stage grass of Green Hill Park.

One last word: Be prepared for some early 1960s musical interludes that are sublimely chosen and delightfully performed.

`A Midsummer Night's Dream'

* * * *

By William Shakespeare, directed by Edward Isser, scenic design by Barbara Craig, costume design by Katherine Fritz.

Presented by Redfeather Theatre Company, in association with the College of Holy Cross, at the Memorial Grove Amphitheatre at Green Hill Park.

Performances at 7 p.m. Wednesdays-Sundays, through Aug. 3, and Aug. 14 and 16. Admission: $15; students and seniors $10; children $5.

With John Keller, Emily Holmes, Mel Cobb, Kurt Hultgren, Emily Rast, Lauren Doucette, Matt Brown, Jason Frank, Steve Vineberg, Joseph Finneral, Eric McGowan, Cooper Gardner, Jimmy D'Amico, Sean Kiely, Savanah Shaughnessy, Dianne Harrison, Christine Freije, Kristen Fleming, Kate Hultgren, Caitlin Kean and Eamon Pac.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Jul 27, 2008
Words:671
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