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updated: 9/3/2013 5:27 PM

Savvy editing, performances make brisk, breezy 'Dream'

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  • Mark Hespen, front row left, and Sarah Jean Mergener, and Michael Kurowski, back row left, and Megan Skord Campbell play lovers bedeviled by mischievous faeries in Janus Theater's adaptation of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

      Mark Hespen, front row left, and Sarah Jean Mergener, and Michael Kurowski, back row left, and Megan Skord Campbell play lovers bedeviled by mischievous faeries in Janus Theater's adaptation of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

  • Bottom (Ross Patrick Frawley, left) instructs a ragtag group of aspiring thespians (Erick Waddick, left, Dan Stromquist, Stetson Cross, Timothy Vogel and Kelly Bolton) in Janus Theater's production of William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

      Bottom (Ross Patrick Frawley, left) instructs a ragtag group of aspiring thespians (Erick Waddick, left, Dan Stromquist, Stetson Cross, Timothy Vogel and Kelly Bolton) in Janus Theater's production of William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

 
 

A change of venue seems to suit Janus Theater, which relocated temporarily from its home at the Elgin Art Showcase to a nearby storefront gallery for its spirited, fast-paced production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

There is a freshness to Janus' production, which unfolds on a stripped-down set at Side Street Studio Arts, a small, airy space with room for about two dozen patrons.

Director/adapter Sean Hargadon trimmed about 25 percent from William Shakespeare's comedy about mischievous faeries bedeviling amorous young lovers and aspiring thespians. The result is a 90-minute romp perfect for a sultry summer night.

But the success of this zestful production goes beyond the judicious edits. Credit also rests with Hargadon's perpetual motion staging, and with peppery performances from both veterans and newcomers, among them recent graduates and current college students.

Among the latter is college sophomore Michael Kurowski who plays Lysander, a young Athenian in love with Hermia (a decorous and willful Megan Skord Campbell). Hermia's father Egeus (Marc Beth) disapproves of the affair. He prefers she marry Mark Hespen's Demetrius, loved by Helena (a spunky Sarah Jean Mergener) still carrying a torch for him after he left her for Hermia.

Romantic turmoil isn't reserved for mortals. An ongoing quarrel between faerie king Oberon (Geo Nikols), and his queen Titania (Sarafina Vecchio) has disrupted the entire faerie realm, leaving Oberon's wily servant Puck (Ann Marie Nordby) free to sow mayhem.

Meanwhile a group of laborers led by Peta Quince (a funny, frazzled Kelly Bolton in a role usually played by a man) bumble through rehearsals of Ovid's tragedy "Pyramus and Thisbe," starring the over-confidant but utterly incompetent Nick Bottom, played with comic abandon by Ross Patrick Frawley.

Strands of blue and green bulbs cast a dusky glow on the mostly bare stage where the lovers scamper about in matching pink and blue pajamas (a real hoot). And wind chimes, a steel drum and singing bowl provide a magical soundscape.

Unfortunately, recorded pop music breaks the spell. Additionally, a pointless bit of stage business between Bottom and faeries (inexplicably dressed in black suits and bowler hats that recall Rene Magritte's "The Son of Man") drags on too long.

Fortunately those are minor points in an otherwise entertaining "Dream."

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