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ISSUE 117 VOL 16 PUBLISHED 4/23/2004

Dream delights

By Lauren Hoffman
Staff Writer

Friday, April 23, 2004

Signs advertising the theater department's latest production, "Appalachian Dream," boasted, "This time, it really IS a comedy." And this time, the posters told it like it was. "Appalachian Dream," which runs April 16-25, can best be described as two parts "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and one part "O Brother, Where Art Thou."

Rather than leaving depressed or reflective, audience members left entertained and, even after almost three full hours of Elizabethan language, wanting more.

After the play, Evan Meyer '05 said, "This is the most slapstick Shakespeare production I've ever seen - - but it worked!" It seemed as though Artist in Residence and director Gary Gisselman read Shakespeare's original text, realized its level of absurdity, and decided to go for broke.

The metaphorical fourth wall separating the audience and the actors came down easily and often, with many lines being addressed directly to the audience.

The result was three hours of mistaken identity, men becoming asses (literally and figuratively), banjo music, broad physical humor, fairies with a penchant for meddling in mortal affairs (and for percussion) and a great way to spend a spring afternoon or evening.

The cast of the show presented remarkably even and strong performances; however, a few stood above the rest. Alan Naylor '07, Aaron Cook '04, Cassie Fox '06 and Anna Sundberg '05 were delightful in their roles as men who spurn women and the women who love them, approaching their parts with both humor and vulnerability.

Jonathan Ziese '06 and his motley crew of hillbilly players in the play within the play should be commended not only for their hilarious performances, but also for the sensitivity with which they performed the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe.

They turned what could have been a moment of pure slapstick into one of the most touching episodes of the play.

Matt Rein '05 shone in Pyramus and Thisbe as a man playing a hillbilly playing a Babylonian woman who loses her lover, and Ted White '05 is sure to be annoyed for weeks by people asking him to "say that thing about the wall": it was that funny. Bret Hemmerlin '06's portrayal of Puck, a fairy with an eye for mischief, was also amusing.

The play did have a few confusing elements. It was difficult to understand why there were hillbillies in Athens, and where Helena got her bottle of mace. And a few of the more abstract properties, such as the fairies' use of bamboo poles to work their magic, didn't produce the desired whimsical effect. However, a willingness to roll with the confusion and incongruity made the play that much more absurd and entertaining.

A word to the theater department: you do comedy well. Do it more often.

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