By Barbara B. Covell
For the TODAY
Once again, the Red Octopus Theatre Company has pulled out all the stops just in time for Halloween. The Newport theater company, known for their edgy productions with flawless timing and creative interpretations, delivers delightful mayhem for children of all ages with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” opening this Friday, Oct. 12. Director Darcy Hogan infuses magic, mystery and a musical romp into Shakespeare’s timeless comedy about love and the human condition.
Hogan’s interpretation of this most-loved Shakespearean fantasy will take audiences on a wild ride, pairing monologues with 1980s music, introducing movement and choreographed numbers — all while remaining true to the Bard’s original script.
Hogan and Music Director Milo Graamans created a musical score which features 17 toe-tapping, chair-dancing numbers. A cast of 32 actors sing, dance, rap and perform magic, while inspired by the rhythms and melodies of the ’80s. Graamans and Hogan also wrote the four and five-part harmonies interspersed throughout the performance. And don’t miss the nods to popular ’80s movies peppered throughout the show.
“This show’s interpretation is true to Shakespeare’s intent,” Hogan said. “It is important to be entertaining. There are moments that are really magical and the cast gets the heart of the story.”
Hogan made a few changes to the original script, changing a few key words to fit her concept and add to the Halloween theme.
“But in terms of the words spoken, I’d say at least 90 percent or more are Shakespeare’s own,” she said.
The storyline portrays the events surrounding the marriage of Theseus, Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the former queen of the Amazons. These include the adventures of four young Athenian lovers, Helena, Demetrius, Hermia and Lysander, and a group of amateur actors, the zombie Dead Poets, who are controlled and manipulated by the band of spirits who inhabit the forest. The spirits have a vampire king named Oberon and a queen, Titania, plus Puck, Oberon’s servant who orchestrates a great deal of trouble. Hogan has also created some new characters for this show, including Moth, Frog, Sarah and William Shakespeare, who makes a cameo appearance.
Creative license really works here. Most of the songs have been re-lyricized to be original for this show. A trio of vocalists, called the Sirens, fill out the sound by singing the opening and closing numbers and singing backup throughout the show. This talented trio is played by Nikki Atkins, Katrina Theodore and Caity Showalter.
The cast of 32 features some of the best talent on the coast, including Cody Larsen as Puck, Pete Theodore as Oberon, Karlia Bertness as Titania, Cooper Theodore as Bottom, Jessica Moll as Helena, William Webster as Demetrius, Melissa MacDonald as Hermia, Christian Heath as Lysander and Cassie Lihou as Peaseblossom. The roles created just for this production include Danika Simon as Sarah, Braylon Belloni as Frog and Joshua Lawrence as the Bard, himself.
And don’t miss Scott Branchfield and CJ McCarty as Theseus and Hippolyta, Brian Haggerty as Hermia’s father, Egeus, Jeff Lichtman as Navarre, Linda Haggerty as Phillis Straight, Akia Woods as Petra Quince, Jon Lawrence as Snug, Miranda Carter as Snout, Milo Graamans as Flute and Stacy Fischer as Ash.
The Spirits are portrayed with whimsy, mischief, and magic by Lucy Furuheim as Mustardseed, Anna Zimmerman as Cobweb, Tess Dziak as Bud, Kylie MacDonald as Blossom and Kayla Kittel as Bloom. Lizzie Watson is Moth, who plays as Puck’s sidekick, along with the character Frog.
Every actor gives an amazing performance in this classic Shakespearean tale with a new twist. It is always a joy to watch actors of all ages work together on stage, and Hogan carefully casts her shows to include adult and youth performers. It gives the end result a satisfying reflection of real life.
Hogan is the type of director who gets elbows-deep in all aspects of production, including choreography and costuming. Joshua Lawrence is set director, Barbara Perkins is stage manager and Stacy Fischer is house manager. Ron Miller provides lighting and Justin Gleeson is sound master.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” opens on Friday, Oct. 12, and runs through Sunday, Oct. 28, with performances at 7 pm on Friday and Saturday nights, 2 pm on Sundays. A special Food Share performance will be held at 7 pm on Thursday, Oct. 25, where audience members are encouraged to bring a non-perishable food donation to benefit local food pantries.
Tickets, $22 for adults or $16 for students and seniors, are available by calling 541-265-ARTS or online at www.CoastArts.org.