Sunday, April 30, 2006

The Bard Hits the Burbs: The Texas Repertory Theatre Company Celebrates Spring with A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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The Texas Repertory Theatre Company in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Center stage, an enchanted couple dances a waltz in precise, elegant steps. With their eyes locked on each other, we can guess they are central characters in the drama that is about to unfold. Did I mention they are dancing with swords? A small cluster cherubic looking children accompany this mysterious pair on the bells. Clearly, they are of the fairy persuasion. Not a word has been spoken but the poetry has clearly begun. William Shakespeare may have very well been the first multi-disciplinary theater artist. His works abound with song, spirit, swordplay, and, let’s not forget, all that luscious text. Houston’s newest kid on the theater block, the Texas Repertory Theatre Company, charges into spring with a new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by Jerry Winters.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream may very well be Shakespeare’s most accessible play, and is certainly a “gateway” Shakespeare play. Considered a “wedding” play, Midsummer found the bard in a dreamy, lyrical mood. Interlocking plots, misapplied love potions, and a dive into the supernatural world give Midsummer its enduring charm. Winters is not so interested in doing “anything” in terms of outrageous treatments that come in and out of Shakespeare fashion. “The sheer musicality of the language makes this play magnificent enough,” says Winters. “There’s no need to rewrite or rework Shakespeare.” Winters returned to the root theme of the play, that “love wears multiple hats.”

Jackie Coleman plays Hippolyta and Titania and assisted in staging the movement for the play. On loan from Connecticut’s Hartford Stage, Coleman is a seasoned Shakespearean actor. Coleman brings her vast experience in movement for the stage to this production. After all, madcap comedy needs a good dose of physical comedy. "Jerry wanted to create three different worlds that deal with the nature of love in their own ways," says Coleman. "I believe incorporating the movement and staging ideas from different sources has allowed us to accomplish that."

Jesse Dreikosen designed a set that depicts two separate worlds, the highly structured, ruled-by-law land of Athens, and the forest, where earthly passions take hold. Pillars topple to reveal a ruin-like enclosure and a much less symmetrical world. “I wanted to create a playground with all kinds of obstacles,” say Dreikosen. “It’s a place where order erodes.” It’s a perfect setting for the mayhem that’s about to ensue. Dreikosen designed the sets for the entire Texas Rep 2006 season.

Hardly a year old, the Texas Repertory Theatre Company is fast becoming known as the little theater company than can. With a slick black box that gives off an off-Broadway vibe, ample parking, a something-for-everyone first season, what’s not to like? With the motto “believe,” this team of directors, actors, designers (many who studied at the University of South Carolina) have a dream that a professional theater company can and will thrive in Northwest Houston. They’re the first professional theater company in the area, although several successful professional theater companies exist outside of other major cities across the nation. The idea is to go where people are and theater is not. So far, it seems to be working. Garnering favorable notices on the first two shows, Midsummer is sure to be another feather in their cap.

Artistic Director, Craig Miller, is full of hope about bringing Shakespeare to the suburbs. “Shakespeare wrote this play about things that never change in humanity: the heart, the mind, and the tangled mess they make of each other. Anyway you slice this beautiful 400+ year-old play, it inevitably falls out in this wonderful examination of that glorious grey area between logic and love,” says Miller. “We deal with it everyday of our lives. Love is essential. However, it is almost never logical.”

The Texas Repertory Theatre Company presents William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Previews begin on May 3rd and 4th at 7:30 pm, and opens on May 5th -May 27th, 8pm, at 14243 Stuebner Airline Road. Call 281-583-7573 or visit .