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The swaggering of hempen home-spuns

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The swaggering of hempen home-spuns photo by Julie Arnold Lisnet
Ten Bucks Theatre presents A Midsummer Night's Dream'

BREWER The fine folks at Ten Bucks Theatre are at it again, bringing the Bard to the greater Bangor area masses.

Ten Bucks is presenting their eighth edition of 'Shakespeare Under the Stars' this year's offering is 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' - at Brewer's Indian Trail Park. Under the guiding hand of director Ben Layman and assistant director Julie Lisnet, the production runs through July 29. In addition, the show will be produced Aug. 2-5 at Fort Knox in Prospect. Thursday through Saturday performances start at 6 p.m., while Sunday shows start at 4.

'Midsummer' is perhaps the most famous of William Shakespeare's comedies. Young lovers Lysander and Hermia wish to be together, but Hermia's father Egeus has promised her to Demetrius. Meanwhile, Helena is in love with Demetrius. Theseus, ruler of Athens, upholds Egeus's will, leaving Lysander and Hermia to run away together. Demetrius pursues them while himself being pursued by Helena.

In honor of Theseus's upcoming nuptials, a group of working-class fellows are attempting to put together a play. However, company manager and playwright Peter Quince rapidly finds himself losing control of these men to the charismatic weaver Nick Bottom. The show quickly spirals away, becoming both far less and far more than what could be contained in a mere script.

The young lovers and the players soon find themselves in the midst of mischief. Oberon and Titania, the fairy king and queen, are at odds, resulting in all manner of madness most of it initiated by Oberon's knavish servant Puck. Love potions and other madcap magical acts ensue, with massive confusion about who loves whom and why.

The arc of the lovers is what drives the story forward. Jackson McLaughlin's Lysander is an earnest (if slightly dim-witted) swain, while Mandy Nadeau's Hermia is all spitfire sass. Alexa Steele is the picture of Helena, marrying excellent physicality with an instinctive understanding of Shakespeare and creating a portrayal that is easily some of the Ten Bucks veteran's finest work. Anthony Severance's comedic instincts both physical and verbal make his Demetrius a pleasure to watch throughout.

Nathan Roach brings a quiet and severe intensity to Oberon, while Moira Beale's Titania wraps a florid veneer around the fairy queen's steely center. Director Layman pulls double duty and portrays a Puck who to put it bluntly has clearly had just about enough of everybody's st. His sarcastic servitude is a different and welcome take on the character.

Brent Hutchins does yeoman's work as he doubles down, playing both Theseus and Quince. While this particular crossover is non-traditional, Hutchins manages to make it work most of the time. Dan Bullard is a smug ass as Nick Bottom meant in the best possible way. He chews the scenery for all he's worth in the best tradition of Bottoms throughout history.

This production is given a non-traditional setting, a dilapidated 1950s-era amusement park. Designer Tricia Hobbs has created a wonderfully evocative space, combining a fascinating aesthetic with a surprising amount of functionality. The committee of costume designers led by Steele and Layman also made some good finds to contribute to that atmospheric sense.

Unfortunately, despite the best efforts of cast and crew, the conceit doesn't quite work. While many of the pieces are there, that connection between setting and script immensely important when reimagining Shakespeare never completely happens. That being said, it is an admirable and daring near-miss. Additionally, the overall quality of the show does not suffer because of it.

'A Midsummer Night's Dream' is one of my all-time favorites. I love it for the magic and I love it for the love both of which are abundantly present in this production. Even after eight years, the folks at Ten Bucks Theatre are still striving to push themselves and their audiences in new and exciting ways. So make your way to Indian Trail Park or Fort Knox over these next two weeks. Have a seat under the stars and watch Shakespeare come alive.

'The course of true love never did run smooth'
- Lysander, Act I, scene i

'A Midsummer Night's Dream' is running July 26-29 at Brewer's Indian Trail Park and Aug. 2-5 at Fort Knox in Prospect. Tickets are $10 and available onsite 30 minutes before showtime. For more information, visit the Ten Bucks website at www.tenbuckstheatre.org.

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