The quintessential summer play - Midsummer Night's Dream, but this time - in a vineyard at Henry of Pelham!
Shakespeare would be pleased to have his work produced in a vineyard, particularly A Midsummer Night's Dream, light, frivolous and accessible to anyone, even the two ladies sitting behind me rustling their bags of potato chips throughout the night and crunching every audible bite. Soon, they appeared as comical as Henry of Pelham's Shakespeare in the Vineyard, produced by Laura Moffat of the Niagara Falls Music Theatre Society (Firehall Theatre) and directed by Michael Madden.
Lysander's (Sean Moir) quote to Hermia (Sarah Marshall) sums up the plot: The course of true love never did run smooth. And Puck (Ken Northfield) gets the final word with his sardonic comment on the fallings in and out of love of Helena (Emily Keene), Hermia, Lysander, and Demetrius (Andy Cameron): Lord, what fools these mortals be!
The St. Catharine's setting is accommodating. We arrived with friends early and set up a picnic style supper on nearby tables. A few metres away, the stage was set with several hundred chairs on the grass. The winery, not a stiff, formal "estate" like some pretentious others, is rural and straightforward aka user-friendly,
just off Pelham Rd., past Camp Wetaskawin.
Michael Madden's notes in the program explain that the play "portrays the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus (Paul Lewis), and the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta (Krissy Newmann). These include the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of amateur actors, who are manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest in which most of the play is set. The play is one of Shakespeare's most popular works for the stage and is widely performed across the world."
Madden is thankful to his Firehall collaborators - Laura Moffat, Janice Alton and Barb Quaranto for work they put into productions, this marking their 16th year. And for ex-NOTL Lord Mayor, Jim Marino a volunteer with the Niagara Peninsula Children's Centre (recipients of the gate) and his many volunteers, as well as the Henry of Pelham employees and the unpaid actors, it's win-win and a great way to give back to the community. Tickets are $25 and well worth the evening of merriment.
There were a few problems with acoustics, (beyond the potato chips) but the amateur theatre got the job done. Ken Northfield as Puck reminded me of a young Tom Cruise with his athleticism and good looks. Ken is a grade 12 student at St. Paul High School, and with Puck, he shows great promise. The two young ladies in love, Emily Keene and Sarah Marshall were both convincing, but the show-stealer is the group of working men known as the rude mechanicals, led by local lawyer, Glen McCann who plays Bottom, blissfully unaware of his imprudence. To the delight of the audience, they rehearse a play that they want to present for the Duke, supposedly a tragedy, but in their maladroit hands, pure slapstick comedy.
Youngsters will enjoy this play as it features the fairy world which has its way with humans and Shakespearian language that is often in rhyme and quite poetic once you jump in. Quote from the noisy potato chip eaters behind me: "I like this Shakespeare play; I think I will see all of his works." Good luck with Titus Andronicus ladies!
Most seats were filled on Thursday's opening night. The Niagara Peninsula Children's Centre is off to a good start. Future performances are at 7 p.m. on July 14-16.