Sensitive and Authentic
By Roz Friedman
Celebrating their 10th anniversary, Connecticut Free Shakespeare is held in a seemingly unlikely place outside at the Beardsley Park Zoo in Bridgeport. You don’t see any lions, tigers or bears, but the delightful production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is punctuated by a proud Peacock, who sits high above the proscenium stage and screeches every so often, when the spirit moves him or her. Very unusual!
All this is charmingly presented from now through Sunday the 26th and from Wed. July 29 through August 1 at 8pm. The zoo opens for picnics at 6:30 PM and you can bring your own chairs and blankets. There is also a canteen where you can purchase food. It moves on to the Guilford Green and will start at 7:30 pm there from Wed Aug 5 to the 9th.
I do believe that William Shakespeare would love the setting and the esprit de corps of the players, here. Bert Garskof, the Executive Director told me that the six interns this season from Bridgeport are underwritten by funds from the stimulus package; his wife, Artistic Director Ellen Lieberman has adapted and directed this production, which remarkably features actors who have returned year after year to perform here, as well as new actors who have just joined the company. Lieberman, in the excellent playbill, filled with explanations of the plot and word games for children and adults, states that her mission is to “create understandable, entertaining, vibrant and moving theater,” and she has fulfilled her goals.
Of all of the Shakespearian productions in Connecticut, this is the most sensitive and authentic approach to the work. On a beautiful and appropriate set designed by Dave Barton—no lighting designer is listed-but that too is lovely—the actors, costumed splendidly by Jennifer Bashinger, give clear and enchanting performances. Breathtaking is slim, dark-haired Abbie Killeen as Helena. I was surprised to read that Killeen was an original founder of CT Free Shakespeare and is now professor in the theater Dept. of Bowdoin College. There is no time to mention all the members of the large cast. Ian Eaton is a crowd-pleasing Bottom, Saluda Camp an exquisite Titania, and Jennifer Layton, a beautiful and utterly graceful Peaseblossom.
However, we must not forget to mention Eric Nyquist, the gifted Music Director, who also plays Peter Quince. He has composed the songs, leads the singing with his guitar, and has a way of making everyone feel comfortable about being there. Even the Intermission is fun. He received his MFA from Carnegie Mellon and is a theater teacher at Hamden High School.
So grab those chairs and blankets and get to the Beardsley Park Zoo to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed by Connecticut Free Shakespeare.
This review originally aired on WMNR 88.1FM FINE ARTS PUBLIC RADIO