If you had told me a week ago that before the week was over I would be rick-rolled via Shakespeare, I would have told you to seek medical attention.
But I nevertheless found myself in such a situation last Friday evening in Goergen Hall, watching The Opposite Of People’s production of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” directed by senior Andria Rabenold.
The performance, in the second and final weekend of its run, wasn’t supposed to be in a Goergen lecture hall. TOOP’s plan had been to perform it on the the grass in front of Susan B. Anthony Hall, but the weather was crappy, so there we were. It was somewhat uncomfortable sitting in an audience as well-lit and visible as the stage. It took some of the safety of being an audience member away. On the other hand, TOOP was able to show off an impressive ability to adapt. The group used sliding blackboards and whiteboards to establish setting in a clever, minimalist way. If the change affected the performances at all, I certainly couldn’t tell.
And thank God for that. The scenes of romance played like combat. Watching the twisting and repurposing of words into weaponry felt akin to viewing a Jackie Chan movie: I know how it’s going to end, but I want to know how he’ll weaponize his surroundings (or, in Shakespeare’s case, the dictionary) in the battle. Rabenold — who also (gasp) edited Shakespeare’s script for this production — and the cast did well with this aspect of the play. In this version of “Midsummer,” the romance was not a union but an eternal sparring match in the ring of life. Sparks of love and fury flew in scenes between Demetrius (depicted with doltish arrogance by senior Manan Hora) and Helena, whose lovesickness and understandable paranoia was portrayed with ferocity and relish by junior Rosie Flanagan. Flanagan’s Helena also had a tremendously fun back-and-forth, height-insult scene with poor Hermia (junior Matalin Collins), who finds herself an object of hatred from her forbidden beau Lysander, lovably portrayed by senior Ben Frazer.
I must admit I got confused at one point. Soon-to-wed couple Theseus and Hippolyta are played by sophomore Shagun Bose and first-year Olivia Banc, respectively. They also, respectively, play Oberon and Titania, the fairy king and queen. During the show, I had no idea that Theseus and Hippolyta were different characters than Oberon and Titania. That said, I didn’t know I was confused until the end of the show, so it’s okay. The dynamics between both couples are similar enough that it didn’t matter whether I knew they were separate. It still functioned perfectly well, and Banc, in a high-maintenance portrayal of Titania, ably performed in a funny sequence of events in which she falls in love with Bottom (junior Andrew Peck, who committed the rickrolling), who has the head of a donkey (designed by junior River Burgess).
I also must note the hilarity of the actors playing, well, a troupe of actors who put on a ridiculous tragedy at the end of the show, with much of the humor derived from junior Reid Wilson’s deadpan performance as an actor who has to play a wall.
But the driving energy in this production came from sophomore Andrew Durham’s hysterical performance as Puck, a clever yet somehow dopey sprite. Durham played Puck with an insane mix of dynamic physicality, absolute intensity, and occasional deadpan. It was Durham’s ability to balance impeccable comedic timing and energy with honest character portrayal that drove the show home.
Correction (4/22/18): The original version of this article incorrectly credited the show’s costume designers — sophomore Sarmishtha PV and first-year Rebecca Sarin — with the creation of the donkey mask.