Theater Review 88.
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A Midsummer Night's Show
The Shakespeare Jerusalem company
Jerusalem Botanical Gardens
Shakespeare enjoyed a renaissance last Thursday night at the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, as an enthusiastic audience that far exceeded the seating capacity thronged around the outdoor stage for "A Midsummer Night's Show."
Proving that quality and popularity are not necessarily contradictory terms, the Shakespeare Jerusalem company presented Battle Between the Sexes, a medley of short scenes from the plays performed in English. The actors maintained a nice tension as they shifted easily between dramatically different roles in each scene; the staging was lively and dynamic with excellent timing. Company founder and director Shannon Kisch provided friendly bilingual introductions between scenes, establishing a warm rapport with the audience.
Herzl Tobey and Roni Yakobovitz are both Israeli actors who studied abroad. There was a natural feel to the rhythms of their speech, making it easy to enter into the mood of each scene. Yakobovitz portrayed Lady Anne of Richard III as a gentle soul, bereft, lost and confused by the manipulative wooing of Tobey's Richard, while The Taming of the Shrew's Katherina was feisty, fiercely rejecting Petrucchio's courtship - yet clearly enjoying the verbal (and physical) sparring - and Desdemona's pure voice mingling with the wind rustling in the trees in Othello was heart-rending.
Tobey embodied his roles, appearing somehow larger and more masculine as the wrongfully self-righteous Leontes (The Winter's Tale), youthful and hesitant as Demetrius (A Midsummer Night's Dream).
In the second part of the evening, My Best of Love, a love story was told entirely through Shakespeare's sonnets and popular Israeli songs. Both Michael Marks and Lisa Woo moved easily between poetry and song, between Shakespeare and his Israeli contemporary peers: Natan Alterman, Yossi Banai, Ehud Manor and other Mediterranean troubadors. Musical director Nadav Vikinski on guitar, keyboard and vocals, and Abe Doron on drums completed this enchanting musical performance.
Kisch hopes to make this an annual festival. The recommendation for next year is - more performances and more sitting room!