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  • Puckishness: "A Midsummer Night’s Dream," at Lincoln Park through July 11 PDF Print E-mail
    Theatre - Reviews
    Written by Thom White   
    Tuesday, 06 July 2010 06:00

    (seated) Ava Miller, Sarah Loula, Hannah King, and Michaela Garrison; (standing) Stephanie Moeller, Faith Rebekah, and Adam Overberg in A Midsummer Night's DreamI arrived at Genesius Guild's Friday-night performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream 10 minutes prior to the start of the show. What would otherwise be adequate arrival time for most of the Guild's performances proved a problem for this one - I could not find a seat. Other than a few spots on the not-comfortable-enough-for-more-than-two-hours bleachers, the seats were filled. With patrons already staking out spots on the surrounding lawn, I was forced to return to my car, grab a lawn chair, and jockey for a position to best view the night's performance.

    While frustrating for me, this was no doubt good for Genesius Guild, as the performance was well-attended - perhaps even beyond expectations. (I was told that Saturday night's performance broke a record for attendance.) And I'm certain it helped that William Shakespeare's fantasy is one of his most popular plays.

    A Midsummer Night's Dream is a tale of crisscrossed lovers. Hermia (Lisa Pilgrim) loves Lysander (Andy Curtiss), but is ordered by her father, Egeus (Michael Miller), to marry Demetrius (Paul Workman); Helena (Annie Tunnicliff), meanwhile, loves Demetrius, who does not love her in return. Shakespeare's romantic quartet ends up in the realm of Fairyland, where they get mixed up in a plot by Oberon (Adam Overberg), the king of the fairies, to embarrass his Queen Titania (Faith Rebekah). Oberon plans to use a magical flower to cause Titania to fall in love with the first thing she sees upon waking, but after seeing Demetrius treat Helena cruelly, he also orders his fairy servant, Puck (Stephanie Moeller), to use the flower to bewitch the man into loving this romantically beleaguered young lady. Inevitably, the best laid plans of mice and, um, fairies, go awry, leading to a who-loves-whom mix-up that must be corrected.

    The production marks the first Genesius Guild play in which I can recall being bothered by the staging. Director Patti Flaherty positions much of the proceedings downstage right, which I may not have noticed had it not been the only part of the stage that was almost entirely obstructed from my view. As it was, I was left listening to, rather than watching, much of the performance - and that, too, proved a problem, as not all of the actors were able to (or simply didn't) sufficiently project their voices. I found myself admiring the woodland details of stage designer Earl Strupp's set pieces when I couldn't admire the sights or sounds of anything else on stage.

    What I did see and hear, however, was quite enjoyable. While some of the actors had a tendency to simply recite their lines, several actors stood out with more expressive performances. While Tim Miller stumbled through some of his lines and jumped a few of his cues, his Peter Quince emerged a jovial, companionable character. Pilgrim commands attention the moment she steps on stage, with a strong pout aiding her feisty turn as Hermia. Tunnicliff, however, out-pouts her with an almost whiny approach to Helena. (While it left me thinking it would require a spell to love this young woman, it also made for an intriguing take on the character's romantic arc, in that it's not so obvious why Demetrius should love her.) Workman, who was fairly one-note for much of his performance, blossomed with almost silly undertones while under the flower's power, enamored with Helena and fighting with Lysander for her affection.

    It's Bob Hanske, however, who earned the title of Crowd-Pleaser for his portayal of Bottom. Above and beyond any other actor on stage, Hanske managed to project both in volume and in personality, mostly with his delightful shades of pretentiousness. Even with a horse head over his own, Hanske could be clearly heard, and he seemed to be enjoying his role so much that it was hard not to enjoy it along with him. While the crowd chuckled throughout the production, it roared after many of Hanske's lines.

    Genesius Guild's A Midsummer Night's Dream makes for a pleasant way to spend a... well, a midsummer night. Might I suggest, though, arriving early to guarantee yourself a good seat, one offering a full view of the performance. One in the front row would be especially nice, as it would give you a better chance of hearing most of the actors.

    For more information, visit

    Thom White covers entertainment news for WQAD Quad Cities News 8.

    Comments (10)Add Comment
    written by cassandra, July 06, 2010
    Next time, if you are reviewing a play, find a seat where you can actually see the stage. If you can't be bothered to move, then don't whine about it in your review. It is an outdoor free theater, and you can move around until you are comfortable. Genesius Guild is theater on a human scale- it is not amplified like Music Guild. The actors can be heard if you bother to sit in the audience, and not far back on the lawn. I don't think this review is fair, and it is a shame if others are influenced by you, as your review was obviously as whiny as you thought any of the actors were!
    written by cj, July 06, 2010
    This is one of the worst reviews I have ever read! Much of your column was spent whining about your seating rather than commenting on the fine performances of many other wonderful characters in the play. I agree that most of the action took place on stage right, and granted, it is difficult to hear and see in an outdoor setting that competes with planes, trains, and firecrackers, but I am sure most people in the audience, no matter where they sat, could tell the difference between Hanske's costume being the head of an ass rather than a horse! (A rather important distinction in this play.) And no mention of Puck or the Clowns? ... Unforgivable!

    For Readers: Please do not let this review keep you from attending this very funny production in Lincoln Park next weekend. There were many good amateur actors on that stage, and from the exuberant crowd, it was a highly enjoyable experience for most.
    ..., Low-rated comment [Show]
    Pyramus and Thisbe
    written by schqc, July 07, 2010
    The Fairies are excellent! You might even see some others wandering through the park as well as onstage. One reason the lines were hard to hear, especially with the rustics, was the laughter on Friday night! Come and enjoy theater as it should be!
    To Mr. White
    written by Faith Rebekah, July 07, 2010
    Mr. White -

    I am sorry that your seating was not ideal, but as already mentioned, it comes with the Genesius Guild experience (along with the feeling of an off-balanced stage since the seating is also off balance). As a member of the cast, I know I am a bit bias about this critique, however I would not go as far to call it that.

    You merely mentioned a few players. After titling your article "Puckishness" you made no mention to Stephanie Moeller's performance (either positive or negative) and while talking of the lovers you still left out one of the four. You also included two fairly simple errors. You wrote, "I was told that Saturday night's performance broke a record for attendance," when I believe you meant Friday night, the night you were present. You also referred to Bottom having a horse's head when the language and the costume both entirely suggest a donkey/ass.

    As an actor I enjoy having an outsider view my work and give me constructive criticism. This review offered no such help. I encourage you, Mr. White, to return again this weekend. With the lack of fireworks and probable smaller crowds, I believe your experience as an audience member will be much better and leave you open to actually enjoying the show.

    Thank you.
    written by Jaded Theatre Goer, July 07, 2010
    Wow! I am surprised by the comments. A review is one person's opinion. An opinion which you solicit in order to publicize your show. If seats are hard to come by, you could set aside an area for the reviewer. If all of your performances are well attended (and I hope they will be as the review as not as bad as you are making it out to be, and the whiny comment about Ms. Tunnicliff was actually a compliment) someone will have to sit in that same position or far off. Yes, it's free. Yes, it's outdoors. But if you are going to do theatre, inside or out, people have expectations--including seeing and hearing the show. Those theatres with mics are criticized when their equipment is not in good working order. There were some wonderful comments made and this review would certainly not deter me from coming. But, I don't like the "bash the reviewer" position. His opinion and he's entitled to it. And I am turned off that the actors are criticizing because someone did not stroke their egos. If you need a review to be secure in what you are doing and providing (and trust me what GG provides in this community is VITALLY IMPORTANT!), then you are doing theatre for the wrong reasons.
    written by cassandra, July 08, 2010
    Is Genesius Guild vitally inportant to this community? Just asking. I have always thought it was one of the best things we have here. Its mission is to allow free access to classic theater - mostly ancient Greek tragedy (the origin of all Western theater), Shakespeare, and Greek comedies re-written to be funny and relevant to modern QC audiences. It provides not only free access as an audience member, but access to anyone who wants to experience these plays as an actor -Yes, even those who have never acted before! (My first acting role was on the Genesius stage.) Your neighbors and friends, many of whom are holding full-time jobs, are giving up weeks of their free time to rehearse in hot sun, storms and rain to offer this experience to you. It could not be free if it weren't outdoors, but it comes with the price of noisy, inconsiderate park-goers who do not obey park rules, bugs, rain, loud passing car stereos, and huge amounts of fireworks on the 4th of July weekend. Is it too much to ask for this theater to be supported by this community? The Rock Island Park Board has cut all funding. Will the community step up and appreciate what they have, and have had for free for over 60 years? I think "jaded theater goer" is too harsh. A valid reason to do theater is to please the audience, to hear applause. And a lot of applause was heard Friday night. It hurts to be reviewed poorly, even if you try to ignore it. But to be reviewed by someone who didn't seem to even see or hear the play is pointless, and doesn't provide a value to the reader.
    written by Dee, July 08, 2010
    Thanks for your review Thom. I'm a Genesius Guilder myself and love the Guild; however, I think some of these comments are just not good form (especially if they're coming from actors). Thanks for your comments Jaded theatre goer" - you're right on target.
    written by marsha, July 08, 2010
    I enjoyed this show so much on Friday night that I came back on Saturday. I was able to hear quite well from the third row. And judging by the laughter behind me, the folks seated on the wall could hear too. I was especially enthralled by the family atmosphere. In scenes that could have been played bawdy (this IS Shakespeare), there was innocent romance and playfulness. Outdoor theatre is such a treasure, and this show is a wonderful introduction to Shakespeare. Definitely bring the kids. Did I mention that there are children in the roles of fairies? Three actors deserve mention for their fine characterizations - Stephanie Moeller as Puck, Faith Rebekah as Titania, and Adam Overberg as Oberon. Thank you to Genesius Guild for this gem.
    written by Lexi, July 19, 2010
    Dee I think you're right and looking back I realize that I was very harsh on the review. I have no problem being left out of the review in favor of larger characters. Reviews are for saying what was good and bad about the show and it is just frustrating to hear about the seating and not the performance. I feel that some characters should not have been left out of the review and while it was undoubtably unintentional, not seeing any reaction to a character as essential and infamous as Puck is disappointing. I wish the reviewer would have moved his chair at intermission to a place where he could've heard better, but it's done and the people who came know how great the show was, even if the reviewer wasn't completely convinced.

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