Although Shakespeare never intended his production to be set in Athens, N.Y., West Springfield High School's student director, Christy Denny, created an engaging, modernized version of the classic, while still maintaining the mystical elements of the original story.
Denny set the comedy in a magazine office and transformed the characters into janitors, editors, and Duke graduates. The language remained Shakespearean, with a few allusions to the Bard's other works cleverly thrown in here and there.
The play opened with a string quartet performing appropriately selected late Renaissance/early Baroque music. The story revolves around the complicated relationships between Lysander (Matt Tucker), Demetrius (Dan Plehal), Hermia (Lisa Koedding), and Helena (Theresa Ohanian). Over the course of five acts, Lysander falls out of love with Hermia, in love with Helena, and back in love with Hermia. Helena relentlessly pursues Demetrius, who is intent on marrying Hermia. In the midst of all this, a group of janitors has decided to perform "Pyramus and Thisby" to celebrate the marriage of the editor-in-chief Theseus (Phillip LaCroix) to Hippolyta (Christy Denny). The play stars Bottom (Mike Newman) and Flute (Evan Dalrymple) as the show's eponymous characters, and is praised by the citizens of Athens.
The set changes were efficient and the costumes were elaborate but never flamboyant. Every sound effect was right on cue and fit perfectly with the mood of the show. Despite the occasional noise from backstage, the attention was never detracted from the show itself.
Each actor brought something outstanding to the stage, with unique characterization and well executed interpretation of Shakespearean language. Nearly every actor stayed completely in character; particularly noticeable were Peter Quince (Andrew Bentley) and Egeus (Tommy Zamfino) for their superb facial expressions.
The ensemble nicely found intensity and comedy in their lines. Jack Powers and Theresa Ohanian gave notable performances as Puck and Helena, respectively. With his commanding performance and natural interpretation of Shakespearean vernacular, Powers could have easily been mistaken for a professional Shakespearean actor. Ohanian captured the audience's attention with her phenomenal energy and vocal quality. Even in the calmer moments when Helena wasn't throwing herself at Demetrius, Ohanian never lost the character's vibrancy or intensity.
A number of outstanding characterizations, combined with Christy Denny's daring interpretation of this challenging Shakespearean comedy, made for a truly enjoyable night of theatre.
The Critics and Awards Program for high school theater (Cappies), a program for Washington-region high school theater, provides reviews and awards for high school productions. See www.cappies.com