Much ado going on in Long Island City comedy

Much ado going on in Long Island City comedy
By Kevin Zimmerman

After closing out its last season with the blood and gore of “Macbeth,” the Queens Players have opted to lighten the mood with a slew of fairies and a scenery-chewing jackass in its fall opener, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

The bard’s comedy incorporates three story lines set against the backdrop of the wedding of Theseus, duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the Amazon queen.

There’s mismatched young lovers, a bickering fairy king and queen and an enthusiastic if not quite professional dramatic presentation by a group of would-be actors. All of this unfolds under the watchful, if not completely attuned, eyes of Puck.

Taking her cue from the current smash Broadway revival of “Pippin,” director Illana Stein places much of the action of Shakespeare’s comedy within the realm of the circus world. Jeff Dickamore, in the dual role of Oberon and Theseus, dresses as the ringleader complete with black jodhpurs and a top hat when he embodies Oberon, the king of the fairies. Similarly, Kate Siepert, who tackles the roles of Titania and Hippolyta, dons a sexy white trapeze-artist dress when she enters the world of magic and spells as Titania.

But it’s not until near the end, when the group of ragtag actors perform their version of the Pyramus and Thisbe story, which of course inspired “Romeo and Juliet,” that the big top aspect is put to its best use.

Evan Greene, Marcus Watson, Zack Friedman, Ryan Krause and Megan Greener hit all the right notes as a sub-par acting troupe brought together to perform for Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding.

Greener shines in a role where she barely utters a word. She is able to communicate a range of emotions from joy to sorrow to shame with her expressive eyes and slightly exaggerated movements. Greener provides some of the evening’s biggest laughs and she is definitely in on the joke.

Another standout is Blaine Smith, who nearly walks away with the whole thing as Nick Bottom.

Bottom, who Puck eventually turns into a donkey, suffers from overconfidence when it comes to his thespian skills.

Cast as Pyramus in the play within the play, Bottom attempts to weasel his way into playing Pyramus, Thisbe and a lion all at the same time.

Playing a bad actor is not an easy task. Some performers make the mistake of overacting when trying to convene a lack of ability. But Smith, who with Siepert, is one of only two Actors Equity Association cast members, is very good at being bad.

Also providing a star-quality turn is Kathleen Fletcher as the lovelorn and supposedly unattractive Helena.

Helena pines for Demetrius who is in love with Hermia who wants to marry Lysander.

Of the four young lovers, including Aurora Florence, Jason Spina and Robin Rightmeyer, Fletcher seems most at ease with the iambic pentameter of Shakespeare’s script. She lands each of the rhyming couplets perfectly and sometimes even so subtlely you don’t release it for a beat or two.

And while the action seems to drag a bit toward the end — everything seems nicely wrapped up and couples are paired off, but there’s yet another scene — overall the Queens Players present the lighter side of Shakespeare with some outstanding talent in a winning production.

Reach news editor Kevin Zimmerman by email at kzimmerman@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4541.

If you go

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Queens Players

When: Through Oct. 12, Thursday to Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday at 3 pm

Where: The Secret Theatre, 44-02 23rd St., Long Island City

Cost: $18

Contact: (718) 392-0722

Website: www.secrettheatre.com