Willie for kids

Brüka Theatre’s Young Shakespeare will impress the kiddies and entertain their parents

Mary Bennett controls the witty, exceedingly handsome and newly-wed Duke and Duchess puppets.

Mary Bennett controls the witty, exceedingly handsome and newly-wed Duke and Duchess puppets.

Photo By David Robert

Rated 4.0

Brüka Theatre’s production of Young Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream made both my mom and me feel like kids again.

Being morning types, Mom and I decided to go to the 10 a.m. Saturday morning show. When we arrived, we were informed the play might not take place since we were only two of five people there. The group before us consisted of a mother, her son and her daughter, Sadie.

We waited, hopeful we weren’t going to be booted out. Fortunately, a couple minutes before 10, one more mother and son showed up. The show would go on as scheduled, but not before Lewis (who would be playing Flute and Titania) said to me, “If you ever see us booking a 10 a.m. Saturday show again, call me and say, ‘Rachael, what the heck are you thinking?’ “

When we went to sit down, Sadie—about 8 years old—was entertaining the minuscule audience and the actors with jokes. She had a knockout array of knock-knock jokes, including “Knock knock … Who’s there? … Owl … Owl who? … I don’t know, I forgot.”

As the actors were getting ready to start, one more mother and daughter entered the theater. We all greeted them with applause.

Four kids and five adults, not much of an audience. But the small group turned out to be a blessing, as it made the setting more intimate and the interactions between actors and audience more one-on-one. And the four kids might as well have been 40 as they laughed and bellowed at the actors on stage.

When Oberon (Adam Whitney, who also played Tom Snout) asked Puck (Mary Bennett, who also played Quince) to find a magical, purple love flower, Puck—who happened to be color blind—was having a rough time of it, while the kids in the audience tried to yell her in the right direction.

She picked up a yellow flower first, and the kids seemed a little annoyed, screaming “It’s on his head. It’s on his head,"—referring to Demitrius’ head (head and body played by Scott Beers, who also played Bottom). Not heeding their shouts, Puck picked up a red flower. By this time, the kids—one 10-or-so-year-old girl sitting behind me in particular—appeared ready to hop off their little mats (the seats were not the classic Brüka couches, but rather carpet mats) and grab the flower themselves.

There was lots of fun stuff, like raps and dances, that kept the kids moving, laughing and clapping. And any time the language got too Shakespearean, Quince would run on stage and tell the actors to “speak like normal people.” And any time there wasn’t enough excitement, she would run out and say something like, “Boring! … Put some action in it, like a car chase.”

Overall, the structure of the play was a little confused—too complex for kids and even confusing for me, and I’ve seen at least four versions of the play and have read it several times.

But the play was less about structure and plot and more about creating dialogue and interaction between the kids and the actors. I was impressed with the improvisational skills of all the actors when they incorporated Sadie—who wanted to be on stage as often as possible—into the action of a scene. I am sure it was an experience that Sadie will not soon forget. And I’m sure it made quite an impression on the other three kids as well.