Orlando Fringe Review: Breakneck Midsummer Night's Dream

Editor’s Note: The Annual Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival 2024  is being held now through Monday, May 27 at different venues in and around Loch Haven Park and downtown Orlando. Stay up to date on those Freeline Media reviews.

ORLANDO — If you’re a veteran of Orlando Fringe, you know that the shows can be pretty outre, often pushing the boundaries of good taste, gender roles, and plenty of other scare cows.

But Shakespeare? At Fringe?

Absolutely, noted artist Tim Mooney, who has made a career out of touring community theatres with his one-man Shakes productions, including Lot o’ Shakespeare, Shakespeare’s Histories, and Breakneck Hamlet. In other words, if Fringe restricts artists to a one-hour time slot and William Shakespeare was fond of those 4-hour long plays, how about doing the show at breakneck speed and getting in those juicy Shakespearean highlights?

Now Mooney is back at Orlando Fringe, this time with Breakneck Midsummer Night’s Dream, only he expands this play a bit to include a six-member cast. In-between giving us generous helpings of both Shakespeare and some well directed comedic stunts by a talented cast, even those who might normally shun the Bard as too highbrow should be jumping in line to check this one out.

What is Breakneck Midsummer Night’s Dream?

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, of course, is one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies, set in Athens and mainly concerned with the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta. Some of the characters rehearse a play they’re going to perform before the wedding, at least until they find themselves in a forest inhabited by fairies who are eager to manipulate the humans. It remains one of Shakespeare’s most popular and widely performed plays.

It’s popular, for example, as a high school theater production, which gives the youthful actors an opportunity to not only demonstrate their chops at Shakespearean dialogue, but also to have some fun doing it. A high school audience will likely find a lot to appreciate in Mooney’s version, which emphasizes the fact pace of the story, the confusing situations the characters find themselves in, and the hint of magic in the air.

The cast members juggle multiple roles, so that it’s sometimes difficult to figure out who they are now — but who cares? Certainly not when Sarah Lockard as Hermia and Sara Schmoo Cultip as Hippolyta prove immensely gifted as skilled comedic performers, with a gift for fine, funny slapstick moves. Both are talented veterans of Fringe shows, and they fully understand what Fringe audiences are looking for and how to add that Fringian touch to their performances.

The same can be said of Stephen Lima as Lysander, Timothy Walczak as Philostrate and Cindy Sherden, a Fringe technician who wanted to try acting and landed the role of Puck. They approach the show with the right mix of silliness, boisterous humor and good fun. Mooney, who plays Theseus, selected his cast wisely, and they have a ball going through this rapid-fire version of a Shakes classic. And believe me, this one is anything but “stuffy” Shakes.

You’ll especially enjoy the magic forest they create. The show does have a touch of something magical about it.

Where Can I See Breakneck Midsummer Night’s Dream?

Breakneck Midsummer Night’s Dream is being performed at the Orlando International Fringe Theater Festival in the Silver Venue at the Orlando Family Stage, 1001 E. Princeton St., in Loch Haven Park. The show runs for 65 minutes and is geared toward audiences ages 13 and up. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online or at Orlando Family Stage.

The play will be performed on Saturday, May 25 at 4:20 p.m. and Sunday, May 26 at 6:50 p.m.

What is the Orlando Fringe Festival?

The Orlando Fringe Festival is the oldest Fringe in the nation. It was created in 1991 by Terry Olson, Andy Anthony and Rick Kunst, and held in 1992 in downtown Orlando.

The concept was simple: a festival featuring multiple theatrical shows, mostly done in venues in empty storefronts. In 2004, the festival started to relocate to Loch Haven Park, and from 2005 on, the festival has been held entirely in that park and in nearby Ivanhoe Village. It’s the longest running Fringe Festival in the United States, a 14-day festival held in the spring.

Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the terrifying book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com.

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