Josh Spell was a charming Puck, from the elegance of his arms to the sweet way he scratched Bottom's fur before leaving him at Titania's feet. In temperament, he reminded me a bit of Jean-Pierre Frohlich in the way that he was funny without milking the laughs, and his dancing was as memorable as his characterization.
In most performances I've seen, Hermia and Lysander are the light, cheerful couple, while Hermia and Demetrius are the dramatic ones; when Lysander is under the flower's spell and becomes aggressive and possessive, it's a complete turn-around. In this cast the pairs had opposite temperaments: after their cute entrance, Noelani Pantastico's Hermia and especially Olivier Wevers were very dramatic, while Stacy Lowenberg's Helena and especially Oleg Gorboulev were rather placid. When Lowenberg twice walked the diagonal, once offered a leaf to dry her tears by Puck -- which due to strange lighting she did in near darkness -- and the second time surrounded by the bugs, she seemed sad, but not she didn't convey the world-ending melancholy that Stephanie Saland and Lisa Apple, for example, have portrayed. Gorboulev's Demetrius was a rather mellow guy who was yearning for and seeking Hermia out in the distance; he only pushed Helena away because she kept getting in his way, and he didn't seem to enjoy the small rush of sadism. Pantastico and Wevers were so vivid and live: she was impassioned, and when she showed great sorrow in her solo, and when Wevers, who could have been playing Romeo, turned his attention to Helena, it was right in character.
The Divertissement demis were a feast for the eyes and a real treat. Two of my favorites, Nicholas Ade and Rebecca Johnston were paired, but the piece wasn't long enough to get my fill of Cruz and Kitchens and Postlewaite and Pacitti and...all twelve were worth watching individually. The main couple, Jody Thomas and Le Yin are a beautifully matched pair, and the central pas de deux they performed was stunning. Thomas' dancing was so clear, it was like crystal raindrops on a warm spring day, when the sudden, intermittent coolness enlivens the senses.
Brittany Reid made her debut as Hippolyta, and in the post-performance Q&A, Stowell said that she had performed twice that afternoon in the hour-long school performance version. I suppose that was an attempt to exhaust her from being nervous, but although she said after the performance that she was nervous, it didn't show: her movement is big, and she filled the stage. The fouettes were a marvel: they had authority and sweep and built to a wonderful climax. Never did they seem like a trick, and I think the reason is that she stood so tall with her head high and her center was so quiet.
The quiet center was what Jonathan Poretta had in common with Reid, and together with deep, pliant plie, it made his performance. He walked on during the overture with such authority, from his head held high on his shoulders to the point of back toe, but emanating from his sternum, and he maintained this authority through all the mime. If he had only performed this much of the ballet, it would have been a great performance. He followed it with a Scherzo that was magnificent: technically brilliant without once showing preparation or breaking the authority of the character. He gave a clinic of jumps and beats with beautiful turnout, placement, landings and impeccable phrasing. He did a series of split jumps -- they end in Russian jump position, but approached from the side -- that came out of nowhere, and got bigger as he crossed the stage, but they comprised one set of details in a bounty of dancing. I had always seen him cast before in energetic soloist roles -- typecasting, he would have danced only Puck -- but this performance was a revelation. I hope he gets to dance Prodigal and Apollo next year.
Edited by hockeyfan228, 11 June 2004 - 10:31 AM.