REVIEW: Brief, sweet & messy: Love in ‘Midnight Pillow’

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By Andrew Becker
The Carolinian

The Bard returned to Upstate with Stephen Unwin’s production of “Midnight Pillow”, a sampling of thematically-connected scenes of love and relationships from Shakespeare’s plays.

From a doomed “Romeo and Juliet”, to the innocent Miranda and Ferdinand of “The Tempest”, “Midnight Pillow” was an enlightening delight, a perfect introduction for those unfamiliar with Shakespeare’s scope as a playwright, and an intoxicating potpourri for the well-seasoned few.

As the play opens, our storyteller, a sprightly Muse brought to life by Upstate’s Dexter Simmons, delights and dances alone to the music of Cole Porter, as if only daydreaming of love, before leading us in and out of the Bard’s oeuvre, and through the many tragedies, comedies, histories, and problems circling that oh-so-powerful, four-letter word.

I couldn’t help but see the lone Muse of “Midnight Pillow” as someone both deeply interested and emboldened by love, though somehow, sadly, removed from love. The Muse reveals to us many sides of love – though, never without an air of delightful innocence and inexperience.

How truly moved I became when Hope (and what an appropriate name) Phillips leapt from her seat in the audience and engaged the Muse on stage, in an ending that was both completely unexpected and comfortably familiar.

Joey Richer and Jordan Montemayor’s return from “Let the Right One In” as Romeo and Juliet in the infamous balcony scene threw us into the complexities and confusions, the passion, and the overwhelming zealousness that the two star-crossed teens feel for one another.

Removed from its origin and shown on its own, alone, the scene seems like a dream sweeter than any reality, as the irony of their fate isn’t lost on us. However, one still can’t help but hope that love will somehow find a way for those two young ruts.

This scene made excellent use of the theatre space. Bringing the two actors together by a ladder and balcony left the stage empty, abandoned, while focalizing attention on the scene’s essentials.

The audience becomes bound, infatuated, their attention elevated in the air, as Shakespeare’s language and the emotion of the two talented young actors brings love into being, all while the ominous reminder lies in desolation on stage.

Perhaps my favorite scenes of the play, however, came from the comedic chiasmi of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, as Savannah Hall’s Hermia, Kyle McIntyre’s Lysander, Kacy Winterhalter’s Helena, and Garret Gibson’s Demetrius kept the audience in perpetual giggles, gracing the stage with the buffoonery of flamboyant masculinities and girly puerile jealousies.

Truly a charisma of chaos held sway over the stage, if not only for a short while – proving that no matter how great something is, how long we want it to last, it inevitably ends. Like love, “Midnight Pillow” uplifts all involved, despite its fleetingness, teaching us to engage one another sincerely and with care, and warning us against the many foibles that might prevent the triumph of love for the human condition.

Photos courtesy of Lee Neibert