Emily White ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
Even if you’ve seen Shakespeare’s oft-performed Midsummer Night’s Dream countless times, you haven’t seen it like Brown Box Theatre troupe does it. This production is a traveling show that sets up its simple yet magical set in different locations around Boston, and, after next week, in several other states. Directed by Emerson alum Kyler Taustin, the production, and the company, aims to bring free theater to areas that have limited access to it. This interpretation of Midsummer is classic enough to be a great introduction to those who have never seen Shakespeare and contemporary enough to be engaging to those who have been enamored with the bard for years.
The set is both simple and magical. It must be moved from location to location, including Carson Beach, where I saw it, and with each location, must be assembled by the team and actors and adapted to the specific elements of the location. The way it interacted with the atmosphere of the beach is a unique touch that won’t be found at any other performance location. The actors’ costumes blew gently in the wind and were subsequently drenched in sand and water as they interacted with their environment as the show progressed. The interaction with the environment makes each performance unique to its location and is one of the things which makes this production of Midsummer so engaging and so surprising. The set also includes several pools of water, which the characters use to further their magical auras (in the case of the fairies) or their ridiculousness (in the case of the humans).
The ensemble includes Emerson alums Patrick Curran (Theseus/Oberon), Jeff Marcus (Bottom), Rosalie Norris (Snout/Education Coordinator), Johnny Quinones (Demetrius), and Rebecca Schneebaum (Snug), as well as director Kyler Taustin, and is strong in every aspect. Individually each actor both understands and explains the text for new audiences through bold physicality and voice. Comedic timing is key in this show, and though all have mastered it, Chelsea Schmidt (Helena) is head and shoulders above the rest.
The ensemble interacts and works together to make a cohesive, beautiful, and hilarious production, which includes singing and a poorly played accordion. The smaller roles such as the players and Titania’s fairy train also are given a chance to shine bright, and the audience can see just how much all the actors enjoy being at play with this show. No one seems to have as much fun as Juan C. Rodriguez, playing Puck, whose devilish glee is apparent throughout each of the plays twists and turns. For those familiar with the play, he makes the well-known plot twists seem fresh and exciting. His acrobatic movement also shocks and awes the audience as he surprises each character he touches.
This is a great example of traditional Shakespeare performed in a contemporary manner. It is a must-see for students of theater, lovers of Shakespeare, and anyone interested in seeing a Shakespeare play for the first time. While it doesn’t move mountains with its style of direction, it certainly accomplishes its goals while being entertaining for all levels of theatrical education and should be seen before it takes its production to Delaware and Maryland. Plus, each show is entirely free.