Gone are the enchanted gardens, the garlands of flowers, the lovers swooning and the winged sprites flitting through the forest. In Ten Bucks Theatre’s version of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” the setting is a run-down, rickety, abandoned carnival, sometime in the 1950s, and the fairies are a bit more menacing and chaotic. Traditional, it’s not.
The show starts its run at 6 p.m. July 19 at Indian Trail Park in Brewer and continues there Thursdays through Sundays through July 29, ending with a run Aug. 2-5 at Fort Knox State Park in Prospect. Director Ben Layman — who also plays Puck — said the nontraditional setting for the Bard’s famous tale of fairies and mortals gives his actors a chance to rethink their characters a bit.
“The fairies here are a little edgy, a little rock ’n’ roll, a little punk rock,” said Layman, who directed the play in Ellsworth in 2009. “We wanted to give everything a little twist. There’s a lot more sensuality. We’re playing up some of the lesser-known undertones of some of the relationships. I’m a very nontraditional Puck — I’m 6 feet tall — so I’m playing him as more of a pissed off employee that wants to mess with Oberon and everyone.”
The look of the play marries parts of the 1950s greaser look — leather jackets, pompadours, classic sheath dresses — with some unearthly, unusual elements, like black feather wings for Oberon (Nathan Roach), a wild red silk and black fringe dress for Titania (Moira Beale) and a donkey mask for Bottom (Daniel Bullard) that looks straight out of a steampunk illustration.
“I know in my head I see all the shimmery, pretty, fairy stuff when I think ‘Midsummer,’ but this reimagining has done so much to make me rethink the entire play,” said Layman. “I’ve really grown to love it. It just looks so cool.”
The fun, funky, multipart set, full of random street signs, pieces of iron and cobwebby flags and fabric, was designed by recent University of Maine graduate and Millinocket native Tricia Hobbs. Costumes were designed by Layman and by Alexa Steele, who also plays Helena.
“The idea is that both the fairies and the humans have stumbled across this abandoned, old-fashioned carnival in the middle of the woods,” said Layman. “It’s where the actions of the play take place, but it also informs how everyone behaves. It makes everything a little extra wild.”
This is the ninth season Ten Bucks has hosted Shakespeare in Indian Trail Park, and like all years, it’s $10 for all tickets, available at the gate. Play-goers are encouraged to bring folding chairs, blankets and picnics, and it is highly recommended to bring water and bug spray. Shows at Indian Trail Park are at 6 p.m. July 19, 20, 21, 26, 27 and 28 and 4 p.m. July 22 and 29. Shows at Fort Knox are at 6 p.m. Aug. 2, 3, 4 and 5.