Reviews: A (MUSICAL) MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (The Bard’s Bus Tour) and GLORY (at Thousand Islands Playhouse)

by Lynn on August 5, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer

A (Musical) Midsummer Night’s Dream

Various locations across Southern Ontario

Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by D. Jeremy Smith

Composed by Kevin Fox and Tom Lillington

Production designed by Julia Kim

Cast: Steven Burley

Nick Dolan

Nathaniel Hanula-James

Kelsi James

Marissa Orjalo

Siobhan Richardson

D. Jeremy Smith

James Dallas Smith

This is the 25th season of producing Shakespeare in various venues across southern Ontario by this wonderful organization called The Bard’s Bus Tour produced by Driftwood Theatre. A passionate, gifted wonder known as D. Jeremy Smith created the company, adapts the shows, directs them and for the past few years ensures that they are free. Audiences of course are invited to drop some money in a bucket but basically the performances are free.

This year’s offering is A (Musical) Midsummer Night’s Dream. I saw it in the wonderful setting in Withrow Park in Toronto for one of its two performances (the production travels around southern Ontario to various venues). The park lends itself to the magical aspect of the play.

The Story. In Athens. A father, Egeus (D. Jeremy Smith) wants his daughter Hermia (a feisty Marissa Orjalo) to marry Demetrius (a strapping, confident Nick Dolan), a man of his choosing. She wants to marry Lysander (boyish, charming Nathaniel Hanula-James). The father balks and says that she marries Demetrius or according to the ancient law of the land, she dies. (Now that is harsh). Egeus is telling this to Theseus (an imposing James Dallas Smith), Duke of Athens. Theseus has just ‘won’ Hippolyta (Queen of the Amazons) (played by a commanding Siobhan Richardson) in battle and will marry her.

Hermia and Lysander scurry away through the forest to his old aunt’s for safety. In the forest there are fairies lead by Titania (Siobhan Richardson) and Oberon (James Dallas Smith) who have their own issues. There is a trickster named Puck (D. Jeremy Smith). There is mistaken identity, misplaced love and passion; some mechanicals who are rehearsing a play; more high jinx when one of the mechanicals is given the head of a donkey by Puck. And finally, breathlessly, it all works out. In this production, they also sing about it.

The Production.  D. Jeremy Smith directs this with swiftness, economy and a wonderful sense of using the vast space of the park. While scenes take place ‘down stage’ we can see characters in the distance scurrying across the upper part of the park as they engage in the same scene. This is not distracting. This is inclusive. There is a nice use of ladders as part of the humourous business. The cast handles the language well and the frustration of unrequited and requited love. A fairie king and queen have as much aggravation and intensity in love as the commoners do.

This person D. Jeremy Smith seems to factor heavily in this performance as Egeus and Puck. That’s because the original actor in the parts, Ahmed Moneka, had to be by the side of his wife who went into labour on the day of the show and director, producer, adaptor, dynamo, D.(dynamo??) Jeremy Smith took over for Mr. Moneka. Mr. Smith proved to be an impish, mercurial, whimsical Puck and a forthright Egeus.

I love seeing this company every year. The productions are buoyant, smart, capture the essence of the play even thought they are edited, and joyous. But I think adding music in this case is a misstep. The play is magical and poetic. The music of Kevin Fox and Tom Lillington seems almost monotoned or dissonant when melodic is called for. And some of the cast can’t sing as well as they act. A misstep.

Besides this, the production is full of joy. And the baby was safely delivered.

The Bard’s Bus Tour:

Plays in various locations around Southern Ontario until Aug. 18.

Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes, no intermission.



At the Dockside Theatre,  Thousand Islands Playhouse, Gananoque, Ont.

Written and choreographed by Tracy Power

Directed by James MacDonald

Set and lighting by Narda McCarroll

Costumes by Cindy Wiebe

Sound by Steve Charles

Cast: Kate Dion-Richard

Katie Ryerson

Advah Soudack

Andrew Wheeler

Morgan Yamada

The Story. Women can’t and shouldn’t play hockey. Women are too fragile for the rough and tumble of the game of hockey. Women aren’t strong enough for all that cross-checking and high-sticking of hockey. Them’s fightin’ words to the Preston Rivulettes, a women’s hockey team formed in 1930.

Tracey Power’s bracing, gripping, fascinating play about this team of women hockey players certainly captures the ups and downs of the team. Four women: Helen Schmuck, Marm Schmuck, Hilda Ranscombe and Nellie Ranscombe played baseball in the summer but wanted to play a sport in the winter along with their baseball team, the Preston Rivulettes. They chose hockey.  They chose Herb Fach, who managed the local arena, to be their coach. Herb, a dour, irascible, easily aggravated man, reluctantly agreed.

They debuted in the Ladies Ontario Hockey Association after only a few months practice. And they won the first game they played against the Grimsby Peaches. (you gotta love those names). Since the Rivulettes joined late in the season, that first game was also the qualifying game for the Division Championship playoff. And they won that too.

Their track record was astonishing. Their fundraising was not. As the Eastern Division Champions they could then play the Western Division Champs (The Edmonton Rustlers) but they didn’t have the money to travel there, so the Edmonton Rustlers paid their way to the first ever Dominion Championships. (Classy) The Rivulettes lost because too many of their team were sick with the flu.

Over the course of their success WWII interrupted the playoffs or they didn’t have the money or their personal lives took over. But they prevailed and over a ten year span had a record of 346 wins, 2 loses and 2 ties. The team was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame. Hilda Ranscombe was the star of the team and she would be inducted in the Hall of Fame on her own.

The Production. It’s a terrific story and Tracey Power has captured the ups and downs for the team’s trials and tribulations. She also put the team in perspective of the times. The comments about women not being able to play a sport is something you hear even today. Their tenacity is something you also see happening today as well. Marm Schmuck was very conscious of her Jewishness especially in an anti-Semitic world. When the team played in Montreal she noticed a sign at the door of the arena that said “No dogs or Jews Allowed.” Her other teammates and the coach didn’t see it, and when she told them about it, they were embarrassed at being blinkered. There was a scene in which Marm was listening to the news and heard about the ship the St. Louis that was sailing to North America with 900 + Jews on it (sent from Germany as a gesture but really a propaganda ploy by the Nazis to show that no port would take the Jew in.). The ship was refused by Cuba, the United States, and to our shame, Canada. The ship had to return to Germany where most of the Jews on board died in concentration camps. (Some were taken in by Britain and Belgium).  Power has painted a world of the team and the world the team was in.

She also choreographed it and her work is stunning. The group of four who made up the team are played by the following gifted actresses: Kate Dion-Richard plays Helen Schmuck, Katie Ryerson plays Hilda Ranscombe, Advah Soudack plays Marm Schmuck and Morgan Yamada plays Nellie Ranscombe. Andrew Wheeler plays Herb Fach and he’s terrific too. Fach believed women should not play hockey. But he got this group to prove him wrong and win his respect. Andrew Wheeler is terrific as Herb Fach.

Rather than being on ice skates, Power created flowing, synchronized movement suggesting skating and individual choreographed ‘arrangements’ for each game the women played. Impressive.

James MacDonald directs this with his usual attention to detail and the gripping emotions of the piece. The women had such camaraderie, affection and respect for each other. They had their own lives and issues but they shared them for the most part with their team players. Power doesn’t shy away from serious issues in the play. She deals with them head on.

This is a terrific story and a wonderful production. What a gift.

A Western Canada Theatre Production at the Thousand Islands Playhouse

Began: July 24, 2019.

Closes: Aug. 17, 2019.

Running Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes (with an intermission).

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