Fringe Review: ‘Nevermind the Bollocks, Here’s a Midsummer Night’s Dream’

(From left to right) Henry Ragan as Puck, Henry Ross as Oberon, and Spencer Calvert as Snout and the drummer. The hidden guitar player is Maxwell Denney as Snug. Photo by Paul Gillis Photography.

You’ve never seen Midsummer like this! Nevermind the Bollocks, Here’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, presented as a part of the 2012 Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, D.C., is a loud, rebellious production of Shakespeare’s classic comedy, set to the music and sensibilities of the New York punk rock scene.

Everything about this production is raw. The set is a dingy club stage. Costumes are pure thrift store. The script is pared down to 75 minutes. Stage musicians are double-cast as some of the “rude mechanicals.” The cast is too young to buy beer, much less plumb the nuanced relationship of Theseus and Hippolyta.

This young cast, however, under the deft guidance of director/creator Patrick Denney, exploits raw punk energy to illuminate the extremity of their characters’ emotions. And Shakespeare is no slouch when it comes to emotional intensity. So bollocks to the nuanced relationship of Theseus and Hippolyta! Bollocks to fairy wings! This Midsummer is a joyous call to the wild side of classical theater!

In addition, local actor Stephen Kime delivers a star turn while playing Bottom as a punk lead singer. He is bombastic, irreverent, and sublimely shallow. Even Bottom’s low-brow British accent is affected, a pathetic fact that Kime does not reveal until Bottom’s soliloquies. From his pre-show warm-up act to his live performance at the Duke’s wedding, Bottom inhabits the clueless center of the whole production. It is Bottom’s world; we just live in it.

This ‘Midsummer’ is a joyous call to the wild side of classical theater!

Young lovers Lysander and Hermia are played by David Reich and Julia Barton, respectively. In their punk-style attire, they seem less like paragons of romantic love and more like a couple of naïve runaways in need of shelter. Demetrius, who pursues Hermia into the fairy wood, is played as a forthright square by understudy Paul Gulley, although Jose Rodriguez is expected to resume the role. Chasing after Demetrius is Hermia’s school chum Helena, played hilariously by Amelia Boyle in private school togs.

Oberon’s reign as king of the fairies seems built upon trafficking in exotic pharmaceuticals. His servant Puck, in a standout performance by Henry Ragan, is deliciously unnerving as a toking, giggling cross between Shaggy from Scooby Doo and the evil Toon from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Whereas Oberon values order and exhibits a modicum of empathy, Puck is pure anarchic sociopath and almost steals the show from Bottom.

Running Time: 75 mintues.

Advisory: Recommended for kids ages 13 & up.

Nevermind the Bollocks, Here’s a Midsummer Night’s Dream is playing at the Warehouse Theater, 645 New York Avenue, NW, Washington 20001, and has three remaining performances: Sunday, July 22 at noon; Thursday, July 26 at 8:00 pm; and Saturday, July 28, at 11:59 pm. For admission information, call 866-811-4111 or go online.

About April Forrer

April Forrer has been a Maryland resident for over 15 years, having moved from Washington, DC after graduate school at the George Washington University. She began her writing career on Capitol Hill as a speech and legislation writer for two U.S. Representatives. She then started working with non-profits to enhance their media and development outreach. She now spends her professional time writing her first novel and designing and constructing costumes for theatrical productions. She savors her time spent with her three children, her dog and her husband.