Front Row Reviewers

Jun 6, 2024 | Reviews

Come “Once More Unto the Breach” to See the Grassroots Shakespeare Company’s Summer Season 

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers

By Eliza Een

The Grassroots Shakespeare Company is coming to a park near you! This fifteenth anniversary season consists of free performances of Henry V and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. These two plays share the same cast of nine talented and versatile actors, each of them taking on several characters and bringing the stories to life. GSC prides itself on “performing Shakespeare like Shakespeare did,” with limited rehearsals, fluid casting, creative self-costuming, live music and sound effects, and a rowdy crowd of groundlings—you! 

A Midsummer Night’s Dream has all the dramatic themes of unrequited love, familial power struggles, betrayed trust, vanity, and overcoming extreme obstacles while pulling out all the stops on physical and situational comedy. And on top of that, it’s a lot of tomfoolery and fun.

Overseeing the chaos and romance that is Midsummer is Kat Webb, playing a duo of patriarchs in Oberon and Theseus. Webb’s tenacious counterpart Katherine Moulton plays Titania and Hippolyta, twirling from one role to another with fairy-like grace. The playful Claire Stucki captures Puck’s mischievous nature—and has been known to accept treats from the audience.

Through a flower’s magic spell, several characters fall into mistaken love, shown by the convenient accessories of heart-shaped glasses. In pairs we have Max Rhineer as Lysander doting upon Alyssa Tanner Vaughn’s Hermia; Alyx Vaughn is Helena, in love with J. Attridge as Demetrius, who though first enamored of Hermia learns to prefer her. The warring characters of Rhineer and Attridge make for two beautiful Grecian beaux, and watching them squabble onstage is endlessly entertaining. 

Seven Harrison plays Peter Quince, who directs a troupe of idiosyncratic tradesmen-turned-players in a humorous meta-play. This is where Steve Pond’s Bottom shines as the self-proclaimed star of the show—at least in his own mind. The players lean into their professions in the costumes for these roles, which is fun and effective. 

The GSC cast is in top form with this show, pulling out sleight of hand tricks and onstage transformations. The playful pronunciation of slant rhymes adds to the zany feel of the performance. The scene with “wall” in the meta-play was definitely the best interpretation—and funniest—I’ve seen. 

Henry V follows the story of King Henry V’s invasion of France and the battle of Agincourt, and the events are rife with political commentary, alliances, and betrayals. The Chorus (Moulton) boldly breaks through the fourth wall and guides the story throughout, while comic relief from some of the common British soldiers and French diplomats add layers to the story. Many memorable lines and emotional monologues are expertly delivered by J. Attridge, who carries themself with such grace and poise that I was easily convinced they are royalty. Their decisiveness and delivery carries the authority of a king’s command and Attridge shows the weight of difficult decisions through their sincere portrayal. This is not just shown in their scenes as a confident and passionate leader, but also a bumbling and humble lover. 

Webb’s Princess Katharine is sweet and innocent, a great contrast to the rugged side characters she also portrays. Tanner Vaughn’s duke of Exeter is a devoted wingman for Henry in both war and love. As the Boy, Moulton has a touching scene with Attridge that drives home the themes of loss when the Boy meets his end. 

Our trio of comic side characters in Henry V are Stucki’s Pistol (aptly named and dressed), Tanner Vaughn’s Nym, and Rhineer’s Bardolph. Together their squabbles bring a lighthearted mood to early scenes and contrast with more tragic battles and political motivations. Rhineer’s appearances as the messenger turn the small part into a comedic opportunity that quickly becomes a crowd favorite.  

Harrison’s Montjoy is delightfully aloof, juxtaposed against his dramatic Dauphin, who parades about like his beloved show horse. As one of the main antagonists of the show, Harrison elicits some emphatic and well-deserved boos. Vaughn’s duke of Warwick is a reliable right-hand confidant for Henry. She also works behind the scenes as a fight choreographer, ensuring fun and safe action for everyone.

Pond’s commitment to the Welsh character Fluellen has a long lead up with a satisfying payoff near the end of the show, which is a great example of the thought and passion that he puts into the performance. And you can always count on Pond, an accent aficionado, to create memorable character voices throughout both shows. 

The costumes in Midsummer were fun, verdant, and playful, including a whimsical 2-in-1 dress for Moulton’s characters. Henry V is more straightforward, but the GSC is so creative in how they achieve different effects for armor, show country loyalty, and play with the modern equivalent of a messenger. 

As is tradition for Grassroots productions, the shows are accompanied by live music and sound effects, provided by Gary Argyle, Chase Schetselaar, Beth McDonald, and Soren Budge. Their timely contributions add to the performance onstage, and the band gets to share the spotlight during the pre-show for each performance. Joining the audience for Grassroots’ shows has become one of my favorite summer traditions—it never disappoints! So look for shows at a park near you, and help the Grassroots Shakespeare Company celebrate 15 years!

The Grassroots Shakespeare Company Presents A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Henry V
By William Shakespeare
Public Parks in Orem, Provo, Highland, Salt Lake County, and Moab (see website for details)
May 31–July 1, 2024, Monday, Friday, Saturday. 7:00 PM Pre-show, 7:30 PM Performance
Tickets: Free, donations appreciated
Grassroots Shakespeare Company Facebook PageGrassroots Shakespeare Instagram

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers


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