Friday, October 3, 2014

Asolo offers free 'Midsummer Night's Dream' in Sarasota

   Every year, Asolo Rep take a very abridged version of a Shakespeare play on the road, performing in high schools and middle schools all over Florida.
   This year, it's a fast-paced and bombastic 45-minute version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Local audiences will have a chance to see it Saturday, Oct. 11, in a free performance at the Out-of-Door Academy Lower School outdoor amphitheater.
   The show debuted Thursday to a capacity crowd in the Cook Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts.
   Director Jen Wineman has done an amazing job of paring the play down to to its bones, and still telling its three separate but connected stories coherently, and maintaining the flavor and -- most importantly -- the linguistic integrity.
   The actors, all third-year students from the FSU/Asolo Conservatory for Actor Training, each taking multiple roles, are wondrous and energetic. Andrea Adnoff and Brian Owen are standouts, but the whole cast is magnetic.
   The grown-ups that made up almost all of the audience loved Wednesday's performance, but it's definitely aimed at youngsters. 
   The only liberties Wineman has taken with the script are to change the setting from Athens to a private school called Athens Academy, and to change some of the nobles into school officials. The
Some of the "Dream"  cast
changes aren't obtrusive (except for a repeated school cheer of "Go Minotaurs!" that's ill-fitting and a little bit annoying), but they're probably unnecessary. Wineman said she wanted to make the play as relevant to teenagers as she could, but the changes don't do much toward that end.
   Besides, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is one of the most easily enjoyed of all of Shakespeare's plays, so there's no real need to turn it into a high school thing. The idea is try to get young people who have never seen a Shakespeare play -- and maybe never seen a play -- to try to catch the theater bug, and this one should do that, and would probably do it just as well without those small changes.
   There's no Shakeseareance necessary, but the audience at Asolo Thursday was full of people who had seen full-length performances of the play before (there was a show of hands during a talk-back) and they all loved it. So unless you're a curmudgeonly Shakespeare purist, this should be a really fun 45 minutes. (Count on an hour including the talk-back).

   Besides, it's free.
   Te performance starts at 2 p.m. Oct.11, at Out-of-Door Academy,
444 Reid St., Sarasota. There's an "introductory workshop" at 1:30 p.m.

   Seating is limited and reservations are required. Call 941-351-8000.


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