Mark McGrinder and Jessica Greenberg get more than skin deep in Offensive Shadows.
OFFENSIVE SHADOWS (Studio 180). To October 19. 416-531-1827. See Continuing. Rating: NNN
At the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the fairy Puck asks the audience to "give me your hands, if we be friends," a request for applause and amity. At the start of Paul Dunn's Offensive Shadows, an update of the work, Puck offers his own hand to viewers in a passionate plea to restore magic and fairies to a prosaic, scientific world.
Puck's opening monologue, with its echoes of Shakespearean lines, sets the tone; sadness and loss linger beneath the wit and comedy that follow. Shakespeare's four lovers become high school sweethearts, drunk or stoned, who rashly give themselves to each other. In lighting designer Michael Walton's atmospherically created forest, they make the mismatches, then return five years later to attempt to set things right.
The script is filled with wordplay and humour, but what begins with laughter sours when the foursome have trouble correcting the emotionally untrue patterns into which they've fallen. Dunn suggests that there's little magic or love in their world.
Director Michael Shamata works with a fine cast, beginning with Andrew Kushnir's dissatisfied Puck, now a sweeper and cleaner who wants to convince us to believe in fairies again. The lovers, oversexed or overlooked - Mark McGrinder, Jessica Greenberg, Kimwun Perehinec and Jason Mitchell - slowly reveal the feelings beneath their social poses, the women providing more detailed portraits than the men.