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What Mortals These Fools Be!
There's still time to see Theatre Gigante's "Midsummer in Midwinter."

The scenario seems straight from a Nora Ephron movie: Two couples change partners in a late-life divorce swap. Hijinks ensue.

In Theatre Gigante’s new show, Alex (Isabelle Kralj) and Jeffrey (Mark Anderson) are married with a daughter (Tina). Their friends Elaine (Deborah Clifton) and Peter (John Kishline) have a son (Jimmy). Time runs its course, and the marriages disintegrate. But the couples “recouple” with each other’s former spouse, and find new love (Alex with Peter, Jeffrey with Elaine).

In the meantime, Tina (played with spunky brio by Megan Kaminsky) and Jimmy (Evan James Koepnick) fall in love, and announce to their parents that they want to be married on their 21st birthdays. Still smarting from their failed marriages, moms and dads aren’t really looking forward to this kind of long-term family reunion. So the young lovers hatch a plan—get the original families back together by helping mom and dad (times two) see their original, deep-seated love. They bring everyone to a cabin “Up North,” Wisconsin’s version of the Athenian woods. After that, the wedding can go forward, and all will be well.

If you’re trying to place this story, it might help to know that Theatre Gigante’s new work is called Midsummer in Midwinter. That’s right, it’s Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, reimagined so the quartet of mixed-up lovers are older (in the Midwinter of their lives, I suppose) rather than the sweet young romantics of the original. And the nuptials in the works don’t involve Theseus and Hippolyta, but the young lovers, Tina and Jimmy.

As the brochure says, this Midsummer is done in “Gigante Style,” which means it is a hybrid of theater, dance and music. The characters rarely speak in the florid language of Shakespeare (there are a few passages taken from the original), but in the clipped language of the contemporary everyday. Puck (charmingly played by Molly Corkins) keeps tabs on the proceedings with her cell phone, and summons her forest cohorts via text message. The other sprites (Edwin Olvera and Jessie Mae Scibek) express themselves only through Kralj’s alluring and robust choreography. And Nick Bottom (Bo Johnson) meanders through the woods without a donkey’s head, though he sports a braying laugh that lets us in on the Shakespeare allusion. He also spends considerable time choosing between paths when he comes to a fork in the road—the defining theme of the evening.

And, of course, there is music—not Mendelssohn, but charming and understated pop-folk by Daniel Mitchell and Amanda Huff, and instrumental music by Frank Pahl.

It’s an engaging conglomeration of story, image and sound—a sort of variety show with a thread of storytelling running through the center. There were several paths creators Anderson and Kralj could have chosen for this show. Keeping things intermittently thought-provoking, but always airy and bright (like the denizens of that magical forest) makes for a winsome and pleasant evening. 

Midsummer in Midwinter continues through May 17th.

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