"A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Wayne Township Community Theatre

Ben Davis High School

Directed by Gus Pearcy

Through July 30

Hee-Haw meets A Midsummer Night’s Dream through Wayne Township Community Theatre, and it is hysterical. Director Gus Pearcy conceived the idea to place the action in the hills of Appalachia (Athens, Tenn., specifically) and, without changing the language, created a whole new show that brings the comedy to a new level.

Most of the cast buys into their hick personas. Barefoot and chugging moonshine, the actors milk the script. The four lovers (Thom Turner as Lysander, Regina Palin as Hermia, Mark Meyer as Demetrius and Emily Dickos as Helena) do double-duty in their parts, both expressing the Shakespearian vernacular in emphasis and body language to help the audience grasp the words and maintaining the hillbilly characterizations. They are brilliant. Other standouts include Sandra Belles as Hippolyta, who has few lines, but is a hoot with a maraca and voodoo doll, and Robert Webster Jr. as Bottom, who never lets his yahoo of a character falter, even when wearing the head of an ass.

Though Oberon (Todd Crickmore) is a woodpecker (random yet funny), Titania (Amy Pettinella) is played straight. It would have been more fun to see the rustic theme carried all the way through the show.

Pearcy’s details are what gave this show its moments of brilliance: The flower whose nectar creates love is a Super Soaker, one of Puck’s (Sharon Cruz) speeches includes a shot of flame from her palm, we hear the strains of “Dueling Banjos” (sound by Brian G. Hartz), Hippolyta sports a pipe, etc. Sets (Pearcy and Clark Nylin) and costuming (Karen Cones) are charming.

While the show can be uneven, the jokes work so well as to create, overall, a riot of a Shakespearian play.

Shows are through July 30 at Ben Davis High School, 1200 S. Girls School Road, and tickets are a steal at $10. Call 317-390-0363 for reservations.

Steel Magnolias

Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre

Directed by Suzanne Stark

Through Aug. 20

Steel Magnolias, both the film and stage versions, is infinitely quotable. Because of this, and its prolific staging and screenings, putting on a production can create high expectations from audiences. Beef & Boards’ cast for the show is beyond up to snuff.

Grace Sell (Truvy), Deb Wims (Annelle), Gene Raye Price (Clairee), Shelby Rose (Shelby), Lynne Perkins (M’Lynn) and Marilynn Bogetich (Ouiser) create a memorable ensemble.

The second act scene where heart-wrenching drama (beautifully performed by Perkins) changes to cathartic laughter (smoothly done by Price) is the test of any Steel Magnolias production, and this one achieved the transitional snap of emotions — a little too quickly, but very effectively.

Director Suzanne Stark has a cast that can deadpan its way through the sharp dialogue, from one-liner to one-liner, without missing a beat. Characters are natural because the script is so eloquent in its simplicity. This show is beautifully done.

Steel Magnolias continues through Aug. 20. Call B&B, 9301 N. Michigan Road, at 317-872-9664 for reservations.

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