Shakespeare Follies at Prana

It is one thing to direct a play. It is another to write AND direct a play. This critic knows, because she has done both. But here Roberta Weiner has outdone herself again and made a merry mix-up of memorable Shakespearean moments. The 31 actors were no older than eighth grade, but their precise recitations of famous Shakespearean speeches were top notch. Roberta’s clever comments in the program reveal the humor to come: “Hamlet – the original angsty teenager – debate me on his age!” and of Kate, from The Taming of the Shrew, ”the original feminist, until Shakespeare got involved!” Unlike the many tragedies portrayed, this play was a comedy, without errors.

After a wacky prologue, in which at my show Roberta was called off stage because a dishwasher was broken and cast members ran on and started a sword fight, we met the mysterious three witches of MacBeth. Grace Freeman, Lexi Chek and Isabella DiPippo all projected well and could be heard cackling over their cauldron. But they are perturbed when three other witches appear, notably absent from the real MacBeth: Brooke O’Neill, Scarlett Hemming and Arwen Paul. Resignedly, the three original witches start over intoning their famous incantations, and then all six chant ominously “Fair is foul, and foul is fair; Hover through the fog and filthy air!” Four lovely fairies incongruously appear and in contrast to the witches’ black are prettily attired in pastel dresses, angel wings and braided flowers around their heads. May Shade, Rosie Foley, Brie Horton, Aoife Johnson, Lilly Sutherland and Kennedy Dennison all warn thorny hedgehogs, blindworms and beetles black to stay away from their beloved Fairy Queen.

 After reuniting Beatrice and Benedick, the quarreling lovers (Lauren Condor and Aster Kris), and setting up the scene for Macbeth and Lady Macbeth to do murder most foul, (Ruby Smith and Alyssa de Vlaam,) the play throws us into five madcap scenarios. The first, announced by the ever present and clever Puck (Claire Nielsen) is a Most Evil Solo Villain game show. Claudius (Caroline Mulik), MacBeth, Lady Macbeth, Cassius (Tim Condor), Tybalt (Gwen Rosen) and Iago (Olivia Slater) all compete for the prize by explaining in their own words why they were the most evil villain. But each does a very impressive job then switching into Elizabethan tones, with excellent British accents, reciting in iambic pentameter. Jokes abound about Prince Harry, Disney versions of Hamlet and Iago, and The Fault in Our Stars. Next is Shakespeare Jeopardy, with the contestants as Beatrice and Benedict. As before, the witches are hilarious as the judges. Juliet (Gabi Boucher) and Romeo (Nolan Doherty) give their timeless love speeches in excellent British accents as the Video Daily Double. The laughs continue as Puck announces the third game, in which the actors do an improv of each play referenced, first in one minute, then in 30 seconds, then in 15 seconds, and then in five seconds! Of course, it being Shakespeare, in the tragedies, everyone dies, and in the comedies, everyone gets married. These young actors actually scripted these improvisations themselves. Then, there is a play within a play. Quince (Caroline Dean,) Nick (Izzy Mullen,) Flute (Sophia Chikkerur) and Wall (Graham Lemieux) are from a Midsummer Nights Dream, and deliver their lines with true British polish. Lastly, there is a Shakespeare Trivia Contest, and more mayhem ensues.

Ryan Klimeczo as Richard III, Kendall Hanlon as Hyppolyta, Jack McGarry as Costard and Sabrina Kale as Kate from The Taming of the Shrew each have their moments of glory. Kate, for instance, shrewdly points out how unfair it is that Falstaff (Maggie Mulik) gets laughs for being outrageous, but she must be tamed for being a woman! The mischievous Puck ends the night admirably with the longest of all the Shakespearean speeches, followed by a reprise by the entire cast of the witches’ song “Double Double, Toil and Trouble.” We are lastly warned that “something wicked this way comes!” Joanne Hines at the keyboard with her musical stylings and the Elizabethan costumes were also each a marvel unto themselves.

Cecilia LeBeau

4 Comments

  1. Roberta Weiner on June 4, 2024 at 4:04 pm

    Thanks so much for this wonderful review. We so appreciate your continued support of the arts in Holliston! Thanks for noticing all the little details, too – even the program notes!!

  2. Joanne hines on June 4, 2024 at 5:41 pm

    Such a wonderful review. Thank you.

    • Ceci LeBeau on June 5, 2024 at 10:26 am

      Roberta, I’m so glad to do it. Even your program notes were funny!
      Joanne , you created such appropriate background music, spooky, romantic, and chaotic, as fitted each scene. Kudos!

  3. Kate Nielsen on June 5, 2024 at 1:16 pm

    Thank you for always supporting Prana and for your thoughtful reviews!

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