Black Rep spins 70s grooves to Shakespeare’s ‘Dream’
By Marcus Ma’at Atkins
William Shakespeare’s plays are no stranger to the St. Louis Black Repertory Company’s repertoire over its 35 seasons. Most of their adaptations contain a multi ethnic casts in different settings from the original with Shakespearean dialogue in tact. This season’s choice “A Midsummer Night's Dream,” doesn’t stray from its mode. Only changes in this one are the cast’s costumes from Old English wares to outlandish 1970s fashion and disco music played between scene changes.
Directed by STL native Chris Anthony, “Dream” still takes place in
The first plot takes place during the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta (played by Robert Mitchell and Monica Parks respectively when conflict arises between Egeus (played by Chad Morris) goes to the Court of Theseus with his virgin daughter, Hermia (played by Courtney Brown) and his demand for her to marry Demetrius (played by Anthony Peeples) or face a life of eternal pain or death. During this plot, Hermia secretly sees her true love Lysander (played by Chauncy Thomas) and her friend Helena (Patrese D. McClain) trying to pursue Demetrius.
Patrese D. McClain plays Helena, Hermia’s best friend who fancies Demetrius and Chauncy Thomas portrays Lysander who pursues Hermia.
The second plot is when a handyman named , Quince and his fellow players produce a play for the Duke and the Duchess of Athens during their wedding with its lead actor Nick Bottom (played by Matthew Galbreath) who demands the main role of Pyramus.
The final plot involves, Oberon (also played by Mitchell) king of the fairies, and his queen, Titania (also played by Parks) who plans to leave him and take her child after the wedding of the Duke and Duchess. As punishment, he commands his jester Puck (played by Daniel Hodges) to put a magic spell on her causing her to sleep and wake up falling in love with the first thing she sees in the forest. The same magic potion affects the lives of the second plot cast members’ love lives.
The Court of Theseus, the scene where the play is staged to celebrate the wedding of Thesus and Hippolyta
Even with the liberties the director gave “Dream” with its funky costumes of the 1970s (one cast member dressed like Booty Collins which was quite creative), it's still Shakespeare in a 15th century world.
In other words, other than a few “gimme fives” from the cast, “Dream” is still traditional in its storytelling and language.
Peeples, Brown and Thomas in a raging scene from “Dream.”
It would have been clever if some of the Shakespearean poetic verse (which is a bit hard to decode if one isn’t paying close attention to the riddled wordings) could have been mixed with 1970s slogans and sayings (i.e. “jive turkey-isms) or just an overhaul of the dialogue with modern day language.
Monica Parks playing Titania, Queen of Fairies. She also plays Hippolyta.
The bright spots were, Interestingly enough, the set and scenery bringing a whimsical fairyland appeal that's reminiscent of the disco magic of the 1970s. Also, two of its supporting cast members stood out from the cast: McClain as the sassy Helena and Galbreath who stole the show with his rambunctious comedic timing as Nick Bottom.
A fairy tale scene in the garden with Robert Mitchell as Oberon, King of the Fairies (left) and Daniel D. Hodges (right)as his charm jester, Puck and the host of fellow fairies.
This author is a bit disappointed that the director didn’t go all the way out with the 1970s theme but it’s still entertaining in its attempt to “discofy” Shakespeare.
The Black Rep
Midsummer Nights Dream
Plays until March 4
Grandel Square Theatre
For showtimes and ticket info