FARMINGTON – In the midst of winter, Sandy River Players are offering a little bit of summer. From Jan. 15 through Jan. 25, the community theater will present “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” directed by Jayne Decker and featuring original music by Philip Carlsen.

One of Shakespeare’s most popular works, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a tale of star-crossed – and uncrossed, and criss-crossed – lovers, domestic disputes in the kingdom of the fairies and an amateur theatrical production whose leading player is truly a jackass.

Hermia (played by Maria Skillings) has two suitors: Lysander (Eric Zimmerman), whom she loves, and Demetrius (Mark Lemos), who has her father’s (Dan Robbins) blessing. The Duke of Athens (Gavin Pickering) rules that she must adhere to the laws of Athens and choose Demetrius, life as a nun or death. Lysander and Hermia run off, followed by Demetrius, who, in turn, is pursued by his former lover and Hermia’s childhood friend, Helena (Natalie Bean).

Then, things get complicated.

The forest is ruled by Oberon (Dan Gunn) and Titania (Margaux DePue), two fairies embroiled in a battle over custody of a human boy (Giovanni Elshout-Welch). Oberon directs his faithful servant Puck (Tim Berry) to retrieve a flower for use as a love potion. Originally intended for Titania, through a series of schemes and mistakes, it also causes the lovers’ knot to become further tangled.

Also in the woods is a group of local craftsmen (Carole Lepage, Dan Woodward, Matt Black, Brianna Rush, Todd Beaulieu) rehearsing a play. Bottom (Gordon LePage), the most enthusiastic, finds himself turned a bit long in the ears and becoming the drugged Titania’s paramour.

Then things get even more complicated.

Audiences will see such familiar faces as Kristin McCormack, Katherine Gunther, Thea Sayward, Zoe Hardy, Elizabeth Burroughs-Heineman, Matt West, Andreas Wyder, Noah LePage, Jared Boghosian, Ben Gray, Michael Fraley and Dan Robbins rounding out the cast as fairies, sprites and members of the royal court.

Adding to the Shakespearean ambiance, and occasionally joining in the festivities, are groundlings, portrayed by these community members: Marie Russell, Angela Hooper, Anna Soule, Peter Campion, Henry Braun, Ty Thurlow, Kate Cunningham, Derek Taber, Melissa Clawson, Sawyer Zundel, Margaret Donaghue, Patrick Donaghue, Julianna Acheson, Mary Acheson-Field, Paul Stancioff and Peter Simmel. Traditionally, groundlings sat in the “cheap seats” of Elizabethan theater, in front of the stage among the muck and mire, and from time to time were boisterous in their appreciation or criticism of the performance.

Carlsen, a professor of music at the University of Maine, Farmington, has composed original music, both instrumental and vocal, for the production, using text from the play. Thus, while the production is not a musical in the traditional sense, Carlsen’s music and Bobbie Hanstein’s dance choreography become vital to this particular show.

Carlsen recently received attention for his composition “Car Life,” which – along with its follow-up, “Car Afterlife” – is performed by an “automobile orchestra” of carefully arranged honking horns, slamming doors and revving engines.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 15, 16, 17, 22, 23, and 24 and at 2 p.m. Jan. 25 at Alumni Theater on Academy Street. Tickets are $13 for adults, $11 for students/seniors,and $8 for UMF students (with ID), with special Thursday prices of $11/ $8/$7. Advanced tickets are on sale at Devaney, Doak & Garrett Booksellers and at Mickey’s Hallmark in the downtown. People may also reserve seats by contacting the Sandy River Players’ box office at 779-7084. For more information, log on to www.sandyriverplayers.org.


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