Star Crossed: A Midsummer Nightmare
Review by Amelia Parenteau
In a New Orleans summer rife with Shakespeare, Fat Squirrel serves up a manic retelling of the canon with 'Star Crossed: A Midsummer Nightmare'. Combining text, themes, and characters from over 17 of Shakespeare’s plays, Andrea Watson conceived and directed this original production with an ensemble cast of 18 performers. Watson herself stars as Mercutio, the mercurial agent of chaos tying the divergent plot lines together with his insatiable need for scheming.
Like any grand family reunion, the play features many familiar characters and several stunning performances. Laura Bernas is a powerhouse as Fairy King Oberon, taking inordinate delight in drugging Titania (Lizzy Bruce), the Fairy Queen, for nefarious revenge. Mary Pauley as Juliet’s Nurse showcases her phenomenal range, pulling laughs one moment and tenderly tugging heartstrings the next. Elyse McDaniel plays a fierce, spiteful Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, deftly holding the spotlight even while having her lines, spoken in Spanish, simultaneously spoken in English by the Translator (Kaylon Willoughby).
Taking advantage of the large ensemble cast, Watson created beautiful stage pictures, including a striking tableau to open the show, with characters garbed in the tunics of Ancient Athens and holding statuesque poses. Court dances and stage combat were high points of the action in an otherwise dialogue-heavy script.
The soundtrack combined moody indie rock hits with instrumental underscoring, which could have gone even further to highlight dramatic moments: I would have loved a swelling orchestra beneath Romeo and Juliet’s first ecstatic kiss, for example. “Star Crossed” delivers on unabashedly queer romance, with Hermia (Hannah Dougharty) and Helena (Desirée Burrell) as one of the central pairs of lovers, and Titania falling head-over-heels for the Nurse in her love-potioned trance.
Perhaps the truest madness is daring to love at all, knowing that after all humans, gods, and fairies’ machinations in life, we each inevitably meet our end in death? Unless we’re lucky enough to have a poet or playwright keep telling our tale.
“Star Crossed” runs through August 24, 2023. Tickets and more information available here.
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