THE BOTTOM SHOW: or ‘The Merry Conceited Humours of Bottom the Weaver
A Theater Review by Julinda D. Lewis
At: Agecroft Hall, 4305 Sulgrave Road, RVA 23221
Performances: Fridays, July 9 – August 13, 2021
Ticket Prices: $33 ($28 for Seniors and Groups 10+, $23 for RVA On Stage, $20 for Students)
Info: (804) 340-0115 or quilltheatre.org
The Bottom Show: A New Play by William Shakespeare (Mostly), directed by Quill Theatre’s artistic director James Ricks, comes with a WARNING: “This show is devoid of anything vaguely intellectual, serious or romantic. Contains low-brow humor and semi-popular music.” Perhaps the best way to describe The Bottom Show to anyone who hasn’t seen it is that it is Shakespeare for those who think Shakespeare is too high-brow or too difficult to understand – as well as for those who don’t. In other words, it’s for everybody!
Populated, with but one exception, by the same cast who carry the roles of Twelfth Night Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays, The Bottom Show – named for a character from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it is a comic adaptation of that play – runs on Fridays in tandem with Twelfth Night. And if physical humor was evident in Twelfth Night, it is the very foundation of The Bottom Show – so much so that each cast member deserves a large bag of Epsom salts, a jar of tiger balm, and a painkiller of choice for each week of the run.
The premise of The Bottom Show is that a group of amateur thespians – “mechanicals” or tradesmen by day – set to work to put on a show for the entertainment of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, and his lovely lady, Hippolyta. But, of course, their plans run afoul of a group of fairies who are involved in some soap opera style drama of their own. Toss in snippets of popular and vaguely familiar rock and pop songs and sprinkle liberally with references to the plague that shall not be named, spread out some lawn chairs and break out the snacks and you have the makings of a perfect summer night’s entertainment. Musical highlights included Levi Meerovich playing an accordion and singing Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and a moment of four-part harmony on “Life Could Be a Dream” that somehow managed a seamless segue into The Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way.”
Kurt Benjamin Smith works hard – and quite successfully – at portraying Bottom as a terrible yet pretentious actor while Erica Hughes provides a wonderful counterbalance as a voice of reason keeping this rowdy band under control. Michael Blackwood is pretty much a straight arrow as Theseus, but lets loose his inner drag queen as Titania, the queen of the fairies, in one of the breakout musical sequences of the show. Lucretia Marie plays Oberon, the king of the fairies whose desire to exact revenge on the stubborn Titania sets in motion much of the havoc and hijinks of both A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Bottom Show and later appears as Hippolyta – the latter in a white pantsuit that gives a nod to recent political events that shall also remain unnamed.
The amateur thespians’ show includes lengthy prologues designed to ease the fears of the “ladies” – at one point drawing a disdainful sidebar from Penny Quince. There is a delightfully annoying portrayal of the moon (I think that was Michelle Greensmith, but it’s hard to keep everyone and their shenanigans straight) and a scene with “The Wall” (Foster Solomon) that teases out alternate meanings of the word “bottom.” And, of course, one can never overlook Puck – Emily Berry leapt and flipped about the stage with supernatural energy. The entire evening, running about 90 minutes without an intermission, is magical.
The Bottom Show
By William Shakespeare
Bottom – Kurt Benjamin Smith
Penny Quince – Erica Hughes
Flute – Mitchell Ashe
Snug – Levi Meerovich
Snout – Foster Solomon
Starveling – Michelle Greensmith
Titania/Theseus – Michael Blackwood
Antonio – Lucretia Marie
Oberon/Hippolyta – Lucretia Marie
Puck/Philostrate – Emily Berry
Musician – Lennon Hu
Direction & Design
Director: James Ricks
Assistant Director: Cole Metz
Stage Manager: Nata Moriconi
Technical Director: Ryan Delbridge
Lighting Design: BJ Wilkinson
Costume Design: Cora Delbridge
Music Direction: Levi Meerovich
Choreography: Nicole Morris-Anastasi
Sound Mixing: Todd Schall-Vess
Additional Dialogue: James Ricks, Bo Wilson, Bradley Carter
Assistant Stage Manager: Lane Woodward
Assistant Stage Manager: Hope Jewell
Julinda D. Lewis is a dancer, teacher, and writer who was born in Brooklyn, NY and now lives in Eastern Henrico County.
Photo Credits: Dave Parrish Photography & Quill Theatre Facebook page