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Bradley Cole Fan Encounter

Barbara's meeting with Bradley Cole -

A Midsummer Night's Dream

The setting was perfect for our Midsummer night. I was blessed to be able to see the play both Friday and Saturday nights. (July 21 and 22, 2000) Friday night I arrived early, very early (a little after four pm). I walked around the grounds and took some pictures. Pettoranello Gardens is such a lovely and peaceful setting that felt as though it was light years away from the bustling city of Princeton. The park itself is a work in progress. The developers have placed walkways and foot bridges around, over and along a pond and stream. A large number of Canadian Geese have claimed the space, settled in and walk around mostly oblivious of human types who get in their way. Throughout the park benches abound to just sit and soak up the beauty of the space. Simply put it is a lovely setting.
The semicircular seating is made from railroad ties set into a small hill. The "stage" is the space between the seats and the pond. This production used extremely minimal setting: two large screens were set on each side of the stage; and a few pieces of scenery were carried on and off stage depending on the scene. The actors all wore microphones which I had never seen before in an outdoor play (or any play for that matter) but it allowed all to hear all the dialog and after briefly being distracted by that at first I did not notice it again. The whole setting was mystical and magical. The play began in daylight and ended in spotlights perfectly executed each night. On Friday night it rained briefly twice and then stopped until well after the show was complete. For the most part the audience remained and the play continued without skipping a beat. I was personally impressed that Patti D'Arbanville was in attendance both nights I was there. I am sure that Bradley truly appreciated such a show of support and I hope other GL cast members were able to witness this awesome performance as well. Over the past month much has already been written here about Bradley and the play. As a latecomer it is hard to know where to start? The entire ensemble was amazing. My personal favorites (besides Bradley of course) were Puck (Liam Christopher O'Brien) and Helena (Sarah K. Lippman) but the entire cast was wonderful. Each exuded their character's through facial expressions, voice and body language carefully studied and professionally executed. Everything from Puck scratching his butt to the smallest fairy dancing was choreographed to perfection. The setting was intimate in that the characters entered and exited through and around the audience. Many times the audience would be within arms length of one or more members of the cast. The audience became, as it were, part of the forest as trees witnessing this midsummer night romp.
The lovers Hermia (Karen Traynor), Lysander (Justin Donham), Demetrius (David Prete) and Helena (Sarah Lippman) were perfectly cast as was the troupe of players. All brought us laugh after laugh either through words or actions. The play is full of humor. Honorable mention goes to the players: The Wall (Snout/ James Rana) who was a most hysterical and wonderful wall, and Moonshine (Starveling/ Carlos Rojas) who stopped the show both nights with his hand puppet dog! I wondered how they were going to transform Bottom (David Greenspan) into an ass. All I can say is that it was done better than expected. The extremely slim Greenspan turned into a hairy Buddha with donkey ears and I still don't know how they managed to get the costume on and off him behind the screen. No matter, that was done well also.
There were so many memorable moments that it is hard to mention one over another but they include: Titania (Queen Esther) waking to fall in love with Bottom as ass and later Oberon waking Titania from her dream that she was enamoured of an ass; all of the Oberon/Puck scenes were mesmerizing; the players rehearsing and ultimately performing their play within the play; and, as mentioned already, on Saturday night an unplanned show stopper when Oberon kissed Puck on the forehead and a child up front said "EEEEEUUUU YUCK!" the entire audience and cast gasped in unison, Bradley gulped, smiled briefly and then picked up his lines like nothing had happened.
As the three stories of the mixed up lovers, the Players and the fairies braided together the audience was easily swept along with the magic of the night. The fairies costumes lent an ethereal quality to their characters, yet a petulant King Oberon stomping around the stage was just as real as the wheelchair bound Theseus. Bradley's attention to detail is amazing. In the first scene, as Theseus, he fell out of the wheelchair and it was all the people in the audience could do to not reach out to assist him back into the chair. Bradley throws his whole being into his characters. I did not think I could be any more impressed with the man as actor but I was literally stunned with his performance. The words have already been used here but must be repeated: brilliant, awesome! Bradley was all that and more!
It was such a privilege and honor to be able to attend this production and I only wish we could have all been there to witness this wonderful gift. For me it was a dream come true to be able to attend and I do truly feel blessed.