There is nothing better than a night of theater that transports one from a theater goer, watching actors on a stage, to a magical place.
Unless that transportation is accomplished without elaborate sets or costumes and merely through the talent of the performers, in such an intimate setting that a character may sit down beside you in the audience. And there is nothing better than a skillful presentation of classic Shakespearean comedy to inspire sidesplitting laughter. Such a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is playing in Pagosa Springs.
Great theater can be found in Southwest Colorado. But I haven’t seen as inspiring a production of Shakespeare since I studied Renaissance literature at Trinity College, Oxford, in 1989. During that summer, I saw Anthony Hopkins and Judi Dench in “King Lear” and several comedies and histories at The Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, the home of The Royal Shakespeare Co.
I’ve seen multiple productions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” over my lifetime. The production directed by Charlie Pepiton with Square Top Repertory Theatre Company in Pagosa Springs, which opened Thursday, was an entertaining and accessible one. I can’t remember ever laughing so hard during a Shakespearean comedy. Yes, it’s Shakespeare, but by goodness, the company understands that this comedy is bawdy and it gives the audience a family friendly, but very funny, production.
Square Top Repertory Theatre Co. is working from an alternative space created inside a conference room at the Pagosa Springs Community Theatre. A small, elevated stage not much bigger than a living room rug is in the center of the room. Two rows of chairs surround the stage.
If you sit in the front row, you can reach out and touch the performers, but please don’t.
There’s no set other than swirls painted on the floor of the stage. There’s no backstage, and actors enter from three doors. The windows are covered and theater lighting shines from the corners of the room. Music is controlled by a computer and broadcast through a professional sound system. It never overpowers the performers and merely complements the production.
I was surprised when Puck entered first followed by the three pairs of lovers: Theseus, Duke of Athens who is to marry Hippolyta; Hermia and her lover Lysander; and Hermia’s best friend Helena, who is in love with Demetrius while Demetrius is in love with Hermia. But it quickly became clear that Puck is needed to frame this production because of the limited cast size.
Erica Curnutte plays Puck brilliantly. The program said Curnutte is the recipient of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Irene Ryan Acting Award and is a Kennedy Center-Dell’ Arte International School of Physical Theatre Fellow. Curnutte accomplishes the physical performance with every inch of her being.
In fact, it’s the physical performances of this play using space, time, shape and movement that makes it possible for an ensemble of seven to portray 20 different characters.
Puck claps her hands and characters fall into a magical sleep, slumping to the stage and floor. Puck claps again and they spring back to life. The actors are up and down, in and out of wakening and sleep.
There are no elaborate costumes in this, just dark T-shirts and leggings or trousers. When the actors portray the fairies, they use modern dance movements with many hand gestures. Chris Budreau’s Mustardseed is truly spry.
When they are playing the Athenian lovers, they stand tall. When they are the working- class laborers who are arranging to perform a crude play about Pyramus and Thisbe (the Ovid story that is the basis for “Romeo and Juliet”), they speak, act and move less regally.
This production will appeal to everyone: young and old, Shakespeare lover and those intimidated by the language, theater aficionado and novice.
I particularly hope that anyone who has thought Shakespeare is not for them will see this production. It will change their mind.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” a production of the Square Top Repertory Theatre Co., 2 p.m. Saturday, 7 p.m. July 24, 26 and Aug. 2, Pagosa Springs Community Theatre, tickets $8/$14 at brownpapertickets.com.
firstname.lastname@example.orgLeanne Goebel is a freelance writer specializing in the arts.
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