Midsummer Hawaiian Time
|August 28, 2012||Posted by Becky Maltby under Staff Reviews|
Becky Maltby is a multi-Po’okela award winner, has performed in more than 60 productions in Hawai‘i and on the mainland, and has reviewed shows for the Honolulu Weekly.
A small performance stage –Kahua Ho‘okipa – was built last year at the Mission Houses Museum, right there where King and Kapi‘olani meet. The museum grounds may not seem conducive to a full-scale theatrical production, but Hawaiian Mission Houses Executive Director Thomas Woods disagrees. “When we built the stage,” he states in the program, “I knew we had to perform Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream here.” His dream became reality a little over a year later — now, later summer, August.
Arguably Shakepeare’s most popular play for its fairy tale landscape, romance, and all-out silliness, this Midsummer is an authentic undertaking, well performed and beautiful to look at.
Costumers don’t usually get mentioned first in a theatre review but Peggy Krock deserves a shout out. Each character displays a stunning example of the care and innovation Krock puts into her work, some incorporating the production’s underlying yet subtle Hawaiian theme – for instance the malo-clad Lysander and Demetrius. The fairies, adorned from head to toe in strings of light, shimmery garments, and headpieces, when coupled with Stephen Clear’s blue-toned, otherworldly lighting provide a spectacular visual feast out there under the stars.
Cecelia Fordham directs a solid company of local theatre veterans as well as some newcomers to the islands. The band of workers, some of Shakespeare’s funniest characters ever, is a hoot. Zach Thomas is right on target as Bottom, the ham of the group. His roars and hee-haws elicit well deserved laughs as do his boastful interjections at the play-within-a-play rehearsals. Richard Valasek – worth the wait for his star turn as the maiden Thisbe – is hilarious, as are the others: Jim Hesse, Malia Wessel and Michael de Ycaza, who ably handles his double-duty portraying Hermia’s father, Egeus.
Albert Ueligitone presents a kingly Oberon opposite Lehua Simon as the fairy with an attitude, Titania. The foursome of star-crossed lovers is another high point, with Brooke Reams as Hermia, and Dylan Pilger as Lysander, completely believable as the devoted twosome mistakenly torn apart by the over-eager Puck, played with springy and delightful energy by Paisley Mares. Their counterparts – Hanna Gaffney as Helena, and Adam LeFebvre as Demetrius are an excellent pair. Gaffney’s comic timing and self-effacing mannerisms are a good match to LeFebvre’s commanding voice. And these two easily overcome the limitations of the space, namely acoustics, a low point overall. Given modern-day traffic noise and lack of ambiance control, one wishes some sort of amplification could be provided for those with softer voices. When an audience has to struggle to listen, something is amiss.
One might also wish (since it’s really a dream when all is said and done, right?) that lighting could have been everywhere among the grounds of this historical museum. Sitting under the dark sky when one can’t hear, it’s easy to let imagination wander to scenes in other places, even the grassy area where picnickers dined before the show. Somehow, it was a letdown to see the action so contained.
But back to positives. Another shout out is due to a huge auditory aid, the refreshing soundtrack provided by Karen Valasek (who also shines as Hippolyta), her talented son, Ian, on stand-up bass and Sylvana Henen. The music is Hawaiian, unearthly, and catchy all at the same time.
It’s August, late summer. I hope you’re reading this while the show is still running because I urge you to experience it. Chairs are provided, or you may sit on the lauhala mats in the front where you have a good chance of hearing every word.