By Mary Boyle
Since 2016, Voices Found Repertory has become one of my favorite small theatre companies in the Milwaukee area because I am a huge fan of Shakespeare, and this company is all about The Bard. Their shows are intimate, simple and accessible, and they make the most of Milwaukee's local talent, with many of the actors doubling as production team members. In 2018, they staged the rarely seen Titus Andronicus, and in 2019, a streamlined version of the epic Henry V. Now in their 5th season, after a pandemic-induced hiatus, VFR returns with one of Shakespeare's best-loved comedies: A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM.
Although it is a bit past midsummer, this delightfully light and fun frolic on the stage is just the performance needed as we finally make our way back to live theatre. Inspiration Studios in West Allis is a quick trip from Oz and located just a block off Greenfield Ave. in the hip and happening historic district; the theatre is cozy, but not cramped, and well-appointed. Be sure to get to the show about 15 minutes early to find the actors all on stage performing a variety of songs you're sure to recognize.
Directed by Sarah Zapiain, Midsummer is a tale of lovers: Hermia (Haley Ebinal) is being forced by her father, Egeus (Kyle Conner), to wed Demetrius (Phillip Steenbekkers), but she is truly in love with Lysander (Grace DeWolff). The two lovers plan to meet in the forest that evening to run away together, but a problem occurs when Helena (Maya Danks) tells Demetrius of the lovers' plans, hoping to win Demetrius for herself. Demetrius runs into the woods to get back Hermia, with lovesick Helena at his heels. Meanwhile, a group of laborers is rehearsing a play near the woods for the upcoming wedding of Duke Theseus (Brandon Haut) and his reluctant bride, Hippolyta (Amber Weissert) and, in the forest, the Fairy Queen and King, Titania and Oberon (Weissert/Haut), are having relationship issues of their own. Oberon's mischievous fairy messenger, Puck (Kyle Conner), makes both purposeful and accidental fun with the lovers and the players, and hilarity ensues.
The play within the play is truly the highlight of Midsummer, and these players are pretty great: Jessica Trznadel as Flute, Alexis Furseth as Snout, Kazoua Thao as Snug, Brittany Haut as Starveling, Hannah Kubiak as Quince, and Ben Yela as Nick Bottom, who has the misfortune of having his head replaced by that of a donkey by that trickster, Puck, then magically made the object of the Fairy Queen's affections for the amusement of all. Ben Yela is one of my favorite local actors to watch, and he steals the show in this production — I literally laughed so hard I cried. A truly talented cast, all around, though, and certainly an excellent way to spend an evening of live theatre.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM runs September 9th through the 12th at Inspiration Studios, located at 1500 S 73rd St. in West Allis. Thursday - Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday shows at 2:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 and available online or at the Box Office 30 minutes before the show. VFR highly recommends that all patrons purchase their tickets online prior to the performance, as seating is extremely limited. Pay What You Can on Thursday, September 9th is not valid online. All performances suitable for audience members 18+ or 16+ with a legal guardian. Run time is 90 minutes with no intermission.