It’s Wednesday evening. Cast and crew of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” are gathered again on the stage at the Gamm Theatre in Warwick. Tony Estrella had just finished explaining that another cast member tested positive for Covid.
Tonight’s show had been canceled. We were there for a put-in rehearsal. Another actor, Steve Kidd, has been enlisted to cover the role of Demetrius until the ailing actor is able to safely return.
“When I got the news,” says Estrella, who is the Gamm’s artistic director and performing in “Midsummer” as Nick Bottom, “I happened to be sitting with Steve. I said, ‘What are you doing for the rest of the week.’”
So, there we were, watching Kidd start rehearsing the scenes in which Demetrius appears. Incredibly, except for one scene which is dialogue-heavy, Kidd is off-book. Fred Sullivan, our director, just has to coach Kidd through his stage directions.
As a reminder, I’m part of this cast, playing the part of Tom Snout/ The Wall. The response to the show has been overwhelmingly amazing. We’ve received standing ovations for each performance.
We had already experienced a Covid delay, and really didn’t want anymore, so it’s lucky that Kidd was able to join us. He’s very familiar with the show and the script, as he teaches theater and “Midsummer” is frequently taught.
I’m indulging a bit, but I’m going to give the show a quick review. Yes, I know, a cast member reviewing the show he’s in? Because of scheduling issues, none of my colleagues at What’sUpNewp were able to attend the show for review purposes.
I am extremely lucky to find myself in the company of 17 incredibly talented performers. At our talkback after Sunday’s 2PM show, someone called us “the best ensemble ever.” I would have to agree. One of the blessings of our first Covid cancellations was getting to watch as an audience member the scenes in which we don’t appear. My fellow actors are amazing.
Let’s start with Estrella as Bottom. He understands the show’s language and skillfully mines it for its humor. Mostly I’ve seen Estrella in dramas, but clearly, he’s got humor in his bones.
Brandon Whitehead plays Peter Quince, the leader of a rag-tag band of thespians who will perform a show at the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. Whitehead is simply hilarious. His words, actions and facial expressions all get laughs. I’m part of that band, and it’s so much fun to be working with Estrella and Whitehead and the other mechanicals – Zach Gibb, Jeff Ararat and Jim O’Brien.
There are a lot of moving pieces in this show, and Sullivan has shaped every movement so that zero time is wasted. No sooner is one scene over than the next one starts with a quick lighting change.
I hesitate to single out others because every performance is sublimely perfect. Deb Martin as Oberon and Michael Liebhauser as Titania (the king and queen of the fairy world) play so well against each other. Marc Pierre’s Puck is mischievous and mobile. He’s as magical as the character he portrays.
There’s an ease with our interpersonal relationships, and it serves the show well.
As I write this, we did our first show last night with Kidd playing Demetrius. He’ll be with us at least through the weekend. Had Estrella not announced the replacement at the top of the show, I don’t think anyone would have known that Kidd was with us from the beginning.
We look forward to the return of our original Demetrius. Initially, he had been called up to jump into “Ironbound,” the show that preceded ours at the Gamm, when one of the actors tested positive for Covid.
We’re keeping our collective fingers crossed that we don’t hit any more speed bumps on the road to next weekend’s closing. Meanwhile, come out and see the show. It overflows with magic, and will uplift any spirit.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” runs through May 29 at the Gamm Theatre on Jefferson Boulevard in Warwick. For tickets and information, call the box office at 401.723.GAMM or visit www.gammtheatre.org.