Open Fist Theatre Company, performing at nearby Atwater Village Theatre, presents a clever and hilariously successful twist on an already twisted Shakespearean tale of star-crossed lovers, controlling parents, semi-successful spells cast by mischievous but well-intentioned fairies, and other natural and supernatural goings-on.
By Carol Edger Germain
The twist is that the setting is moved 5600 miles from Athens, Greece to Athens, Georgia and moved 200 years forward from 1565 to the Antebellum South right before the Civil War. It’s a smooth transition overseen by director/choreographer James Fowler, with the circumstances, dialogue and settings translating seamlessly and incorporating relevant references to the time period. It’s exactly as I imagine Shakespeare himself would have tweaked the story. The various Southern accents and background playing of “Old Black Joe” worked well to adjust the audience’s mindset to the time period.
The complicated play-within-a-play-within-a-play is magical and comical as intended, drawing belly laughs as well as a few groans in appreciation of the irony from the audience. Hermia loves Lysander but she’s promised to Demetrius (her alternate choice is death), Helena loves Demetrius but he’s holding out for Hermia, and Helena stirs the pot by letting Demetrius know that Hermia is running into the woods with Lysander. And we’re off…. Chases and potions later, “all’s well that ends well” so to speak.
The fairies are played by Phillip C. Curry as Oberon, Ash Saunders as Titania and a particularly nimble Monazia Smith as Puck. The mechanicals are headed up by Michael A. Shepperd as Bottom (who commands the stage with every appearance without diminishing those supporting the scene) and Debba Rofheart as Peter Quince. The remaining fairies and “mechanicals” are doubled, with Malik Bailey as Mustardseed and Flute; Syanne Green as Peaseblossom and Starveling; Erica Mae Mcneal as Cobweb and Snout; and Azeem Vecchio as Moth and Snug. The White “landowners” include Bryan Bertone as Theseus, Heather Mitchell as Hippolyta and Alexander Wells as Egeus, while the four lovers are played by Sandra Kate Burck as Hermia; Dylan Wittrock as Lysander; Anna-Laurie Rives and Ann Marie Wilding alternating as Helena; and Devon Armstrong and Nick Mizrahi alternating as Demetrius.
A wonderful tumultuous romp
The transitions are smooth, the pace is quick, and it’s a wonderfully tumultuous romp for the eyes, ears, and brain trying to keep up with the magical twists and turns. Particularly fun are the slapstick shenanigans of the four lovers in their nighties as they tumble through various stages of attraction to each other based on who got what potion when, and the effects on Titania, who is tricked into absorbing the potion, falling in love with Bottom, even though he has been transformed to have the head of an ass.
Everything about the production is top notch, don’t miss it! The theater is small, seats are well spaced out. Vaccination, ID and masks are required in the theater, although you may purchase drinks and snacks, unmasked, in the courtyard before the performance. Free parking. Tickets are $25, $15 for seniors, students, and veterans with ID. (Purchase here).
Open Fist Theatre Company Atwater Village Theatre 3269 Casitas Avenue Los Angeles, CA 90039 323-644-1929 Through August 13.
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