“Shakespeare’s Globe: A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (2014)

This is a very appealing production of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays that should get wide attention. The cast is good, John Light ably doubles as Theseus and Oberon, and Michelle Terry impressed me as Hippolyta and Titania. -Excerpt from IMDB review

Trailer for the production

The play (which I saw last week on YouTube) opens w/ a dance/battle, showing us that Hippolyta (Michelle Terry), the leader of the Amazons (a tribe of women), was captured by Theseus (John Light) during war. Terry reveals intelligence, sensitivity, and power. She makes a connection w/ Hermia when she is threatened w/ death or life as a nun (if she doesn’t marry Demetrius- her father’s choice). As the play goes on, Hippolyta’s proud manner turns to teasing of Theseus; they share chemistry and could have a happy marriage.

The fairy land ruled by Oberon and Titania is decorated w/ animal heads and full of mischief. The quarrel between the long-married king and queen (over an orphaned Indian boy) has upset nature. Light’s Oberon is charismatic and full of energy in his gymnastic moves; he can act tough, but also has a soft side. He sympathizes w/ Helena when she’s chasing Demetrius, the man she loves. Terry’s Titania falls for (the ass-headed Bottom) after being tricked by Oberon.

The young lovers (Helena, Demetrius, Hermia, and Lysander) are cute, funny, and energetic.They become muddy and disheveled as they tumble through the woods together. Hermia (Olivia Ross- also seen in Killing Eve) and Helena (Sarah MacRae) show real pain and confusion as their friendship is tested. The young men, Lysander (Luke Thompson) and Demetrius (Joshua Silver) try to one-up each other. The mischievous fairy, Puck (Matthew Tennyson), is there to make sure they don’t hurt each other.

The Mechanicals are also clog dancers; the sounds of their arrival breaks into the goings-on of the lovers. This group of Athenian workmen are planning to present an entertainment for the Duke’s wedding. Led by the comic/anxious, Peter Quince (Fergal McElherron), they attempt at presenting the tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe w/ seriousness (despite their lack of talent). Flute (Christopher Logan) plays Thisbe w/ sensitivity, though he is rather clumsy. Snug (Edward Peel) has to use his joiner’s skills to repair their little stage, even during the performance- LOL! Bottom (Pearce Quigley) starts out wanting to play all the parts; he also flirts w/ the (live) audience. The Renaissance music helps to bring it all together.

“Royal Shakespeare Company: Love’s Labour Won” (2015)

Autumn 1918. A group of soldiers return from the trenches. The world-weary Benedick and his friend Claudio find themselves reacquainted with Beatrice and Hero. As memories of conflict give way to a life of parties and masked balls, Claudio and Hero fall madly, deeply in love, while Benedick and Beatrice reignite their own altogether more combative courtship. Set amidst the brittle high spirits of a post-war house party, where youthful passions run riot, lovers are deceived and happiness is threatened – before peace ultimately wins out. -Synopsis

I saw this play on Marquee TV (which is an arts and culture streaming service); I signed up for the free 14-day trial. The play is more commonly known as Much Ado About Nothing; it’s my favorite Shakespeare comedy. This adaptation is set in the time period made famous by the recent PBS drama series and movie Downton Abbey. Hero (Flora Spencer Longhurst) and Claudio (Tunji Kasim) are the younger/fresh-faced couple. Beatrice (Michelle Terry) and Benedick (Edward Bennett) are the slightly older/jaded pair content to be singletons. By means of “noting” (which sounds similar to “nothing,” meaning gossip, rumor, and overhearing), Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into confessing their love for each other; Claudio is tricked (by Don John and his accomplices) into rejecting Hero at the altar thinking she has been unfaithful.

We are in an English village w/ an estate fit for royals. In the living room, there is a tall/elegantly-decorated Christmas tree. In one hilarious scene, Benedick hides inside the tree (while Leonato, Prince Don Pedro, and Claudio discuss him and Beatrice). There are songs and dances which come from (or are orchestrated to fit) the early 1900s vibe. We hear “Sigh No More” sung by Balthasar; it tells women to accept men’s infidelity and keep on living w/ joy. In the 1993 film directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, the song is featured prominently in both the opening and finale.

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,-
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.

Benedick and Beatrice (“too wise to woo peaceably”) are the main interest of the play; they have some of the best (and most memorable) lines. Terry (who became director of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in 2017) commented in an interview that “Beatrice felt very deeply,” so humor was a “defense mechanism” she used. I loved how this actress played the (pivotal) scene in the church.

I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow, than a man swear he loves me.

Not till God make men of some other metal than earth [would she consider having a husband]

Benedick is a bit disappointed when his best pal (Claudio) has the “intention to turn husband.” Benedick is also adept at using humor. The life of a bachelor suits him best, and only a rare woman would convince him otherwise.

…But it is certain I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted: and I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart; for, truly, I love none.

I wish my horse had the speed of your tongue.

I liked how this production created a balance between the light and serious moments. The humor is played (mostly) w/ subtlety, as would suit Brits from that era. Beatrice, Benedick, and some of the minor characters have scenes w/ physical humor. I was impressed by how light the actors were on their feet (when the scene called for it). You can watch some scenes below!

Beatrice and Benedick meet.
Leonato, Prince Don Pedro, and Claudio set a trap for Benedick.
Beatrice and Benedick say they love each other, but she wants him to kill Claudio!

“Star Trek: DS9”: Season 1, Episode 16 (“The Forsaken”)

[Bashir has been assigned to chaperone a trio of visiting diplomats]

Sisko: Think of it as an opportunity, Doctor. You never know when a friendly ambassador is going to be in the right place at the right time to help your career.

Bashir: Another hour with them could destroy my career!

Sisko: It’s a simple job: just keep them happy, and away from me.

Bashir: Simple? Nothing makes them happy! They are dedicated to being unhappy, and to spreading that unhappiness wherever they go! They are the Ambassadors of Unhappy!

Dr. Bashir (Alexander Siddig)- the first year senior officer- has to take care of a delegation of (high-maintenance) ambassadors visiting DS9. Cmdr. Sisko (Avery Brooks) didn’t want to deal w/ them, so he gave the job to the eager, enthusiastic doctor. In Quark’s bar, the ambassador from Betazed, gets robbed of her brooch. Majel Barrett Roddenberry (AKA “The First Lady of Star Trek”) has her first guest starring role as Lwaxana Troi. She wears an elaborate blonde wig; she also wore a blonde wig when she played Nurse Chapel in TOS. Odo is able to find the thief; Mrs. Troi is very interested in him! An ongoing joke concerning her love interests recurs here; notice Odo anxiously looking around as he exits a turbolift, fearing running into her. Capt. Picard acted similarly when Mrs. Troi was on board the Enterprise in TNG: “Half a Life.” The story about a brief affair w/ a Ferengi leader refers to events in “Ménage à Troi.”

Lwaxana: Mm. All the men I’ve known have needed to be shaped and molded and manipulated, and finally I’ve met a man who knows how to do it himself.

O’Brien is fed up w/ the (Cardassian-built) computer. It gives opinions on his commands, so he suggests installing a new one to Sisko. An object appears from the Gamma Quadrant which looks like a probe, but has a sophisticated computer. After downloading information from it, O’Brien notices the station’s computer seems to be working better.

Odo: Frankly, in my humble opinion, most of you humanoids spend far too much time on your respective mating rituals.

Sisko: It does help the procreation of one’s species.

Odo: Procreation does not require changing how you smell, or writing bad poetry, or sacrificing various plants to serve as tokens of affection.

The computer starts to malfunction, leaving Odo and Mrs. Troi trapped in a turbolift. Lwaxana, who loves elaborate clothes and seeks romance around every corner, isn’t only played for comedy. On TNG, the Enterprise crew saw her mainly as Counselor Deanna Troi’s overprotective mom. Here we see here as a kind, sensitive, and likable character (underneath the larger-than-life personality). Eventually, Odo tells her about his life, and we see another side of the gruff lawman. The actors have good chemistry in their scenes.

[Lwaxana Troi has taken off her wig]

Lwaxana: No one’s ever seen me like this.

Odo: Why? It looks fine.

Lwaxana: It looks ordinary. I’ve never cared to be ordinary. So you see, Odo, even we non-shapeshifters have to change who we are once in a while.

Odo: You are not at all what I expected.

Lwaxana: No one’s ever paid me a greater compliment.

“Star Trek: DS9” – Season 1, Episode 10 (“The Nagus”)

[Rom has returned a beautiful woman’s lost wallet]

Quark: You worthless tiny-eared fool! Don’t you know the First Rule of Acquisition?

Rom: Yes, brother.

Quark: Then say it!

Rom: “Once you have their money, you never give it back.”

This teleplay was written by Ira Stephen Behr, who wasn’t a “father” of DS9 (like Piller and Berman), but raised it into a strong/unique sci-fi series. The main story of this ep has the leader of the Ferengi, Grand Nagus Zek (veteran actor Wallace Shawn) and his son, Krax (Lou Wagner), arrive at DS9. Quark (Armin Shimerman) and his brother, Rom (Max Grodenchik), are in awe and arrange for everything Zek needs. (The face seen on the Grand Nagus’ golden staff was sculpted to resemble Shimerman’s Quark.) Zek praises Quark’s business instinct; Quark fears that Zek wants to take over his bar. However, Zek tells Quark a conference will be held in the bar, where Ferengi politicians will discuss how to exploit business opportunities in the Gamma Quadrant (the world on the other side of the wormhole). Also, Zek plans to retire and appoint his successor.

Quark: Tell me, is the Grand Nagus here on business or pleasure?

Krax: Is there a difference?

In the B-story (secondary), we see adolescent growing pains, as 14 y.o. Jake Sisko (Cirroc Lofton) prefers to spend time w/ his friend, Nog (Aron Eisenberg), than his father. Chief O’Brien (Colm Meaney) has to substitute teach (been there- ugh), since wife Keiko is spending time w/ her mom on Earth. (The screen in the school behind O’Brien includes a figure of the aliens- Korob and Sylvia- from the TOS ep “Catspaw,” and also tribbles. In the back of the classroom, there is a poster containing the five USS Enterprise vessels.) Nog’s father decides that he doesn’t need to attend school (w/ humans). We discover Jake was teaching Nog to read (aww)! Sisko (Avery Brooks) earlier told Jake that humans and Ferengi were too different culturally to be friends.

Zek: [6th Rule of Acquisition] Never allow family to stand in the way of opportunity.

The Rules of Acquisition are mentioned in this ep. The scene where Quark meets Nava is a tribute to the The Godfather. Quark’s Corvan gilvo (the alien animal he holds), the way he scratches his ear, the blinds on the windows, and the dialogue (“Yet now you call me Nagus”) allude to the film. This is a light-hearted and somewhat funny ep where we get character development of Quark, Rom, and Nog. Sisko, Jake, Odo, and even Dax get their moments.

[1] The Ferengi are essentially the exact opposite of the Federation. The Federation has abandoned all market-based activities, including commerce, acquisition of assets, and even money itself; while Ferengi society is entirely based around those things.

[2] For those that enjoy broad farce and slapstick comedy… you might find a chuckle or two. Shimerman, in the midst of outrageous comedy, manages to inject some thoughtful dramatic moments as he struggles with his new found power and the added responsibilities (and dangers) it brings.

[3] Episodes like this really fulfill the core promise of DS9 as a show… Now we follow a crew that has the unknown come to them, and the consequences of those encounters are real and must be dealt with.

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews

“Star Trek: DS9” – Season 1, Episode 6 (“Q-Less”)

The runabout Ganges returns to the space station in serious trouble, as it has no power, the hatch can’t be opened, and oxygen is running out. There seems to be an extra person on board. O’Brien opens the hatch and recognizes someone from his time on the Enterprise. Vash (Jennifer Hetrick) has been traveling in the Gamma Quadrant for two years and brought back some artifacts, including a beautiful geode. Dangerous blackouts keep happening, putting the crew and the nearly 300 residents in danger. Could this be one of Q’s jokes, or something much worse?

Q: Really, Vash, I can’t believe you’re still pining for Jean-Luc, that self-righteous do-gooder.

This is one of the S1 stories meant to raise ratings and draw in fans of TNG; it assumes that the viewer has watched TNG. The teleplay is by Robert Hewitt Wolfe; he also wrote the memorable TNG ep “A Fistful of Datas.” Not much time is spent on introducing Q (John de Lancie). Vash, the shady lady version of Indiana Jones in space, was one of Picard’s few love interests. Q and Vash are two of the most memorable guest stars in the ST universe; they operate in shades of gray (which is not unlike some characters you’ll meet later in DS9). Vash met Picard on Risa in “Captain’s Holiday.” “Qpid” is the ep where Q took Vash to travel the galaxy as his companion. No, they aren’t a romantic pair, but they bicker like one!

Vash: It’s over, Q, I want you out of my life. You’re arrogant, you’re overbearing and you think you know everything.

Q: But… I do know everything.

Vash: That makes it even worse.

I saw this ep on it’s first run on TV, but didn’t recall some of the details (such as Vash teaming up w/ Quark to sell the artifacts). Bashir is used for comedy in the opener and closing; this is too on-the-nose, but some fans may enjoy re-watching. At the start of the ep, he is on a date w/ a Bajoran woman, trying to impress her w/ his medical smarts. A few scenes later, he asks Vash out on a date; she flirted w/ him in Sick Bay. Quark also gets a little crush on her, as she also has her mind on profit.

Q: You hit me! Picard never hit me.

Sisko: I’m not Picard.

Q: Indeed not. You’re much easier to provoke. How fortunate for me.

There is an alternate scene that is must-see, even if you don’t watch the ep. You can find the blooper on YouTube. In an outtake from the fight scene between Sisko and Q, de Lancie replied to Avery Brooks’ order to bring back the DS9 inhabitants w/ the line: “Or what? What? You’ll ravish me?” Then, de Lancie laughed and apologized. Brooks seductively replied: “I might.” The crew laughed and applauded. ROTFLMAO!

[1] The plots seems a bit disjointed…

[2] The dialogue here is written well and both Hetrick and De Lancie do well with their roles.

[3] What doesn’t make sense in this episode is her relationship with Q. Although Q is all-powerful and clearly very condescending, he chases after her like a love-starved puppy…

-Excerpts from IMDB reviews