WMU's disco-driven 'Donkey Show' blues the line between the audience and the stage
by Marin Heinritz | Special to the Gazette Friday March 20, 2009, 7:40 AM
KALAMAZOO -- You get a wristband at the door, a bouncer checks your ID, and you walk onto a dimly-lit dancefloor packed with sweaty college kids covered in body glitter and little else shaking their groove things to Donna Summer, Gloria Gaynor, and Kool and the Gang.
It's supposed to be Studio 54 in the late 1970s, but there's no escaping the fact that it's the York Arena at Western Michigan University today, and you're surrounded by ecstatic theater kids putting on a show.
And that's not all bad.
What makes "The Donkey Show" a delight is that it is, indeed, a performance; and the action happens as much in the audience as it does on stage because there's little difference between the two.
But the audience doesn't necessarily become the show. It's like going to a club -- you can get out on the dancefloor to be seen, or you can sit in the "VIP" area to fade into the background and take it all in.
Just forget that it has anything to do with Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," the romantic comedy this show by Randy Weiner and Diane Paulus is loosely based on. Oberon is a sleazy nightclub owner, Tytania is a coked-out exotic dancer, and two couples quarrel and dual through dance-offs and what amounts to classic disco karaoke.
The setting is the underbelly of a seedy club rather than an enchanted forest; instead of fairy dust there's angel dust to catalyze the magic.
Director Jay Berkow beautifully cast and choreographed this show, pulling together the madness with gusto. And seeing him out there dancing in his leather pants is practically worth the cost of admission.
Kayla Peabody is brilliant as Tytania -- she's a terrific singer who moves like a classically trained dancer gone wild. Ben Maters plays a wonderfully dark and cocky Oberon. Heather Dolan does a killer rendition of "I Will Survive," and Zachary McConnell is a fabulous host/DJ in his gold sparkly pantsuit and blond afro.
No one ever breaks character, and the ensemble is tight. Among the show's highlights are Tytania's entourage of boys wearing headbands, tube socks and little else who provide balletic dance interludes throughout the show. Equally amusing are the girl back-up singers who can really belt out the funk while donning knee-high boots and a few sequins.
This show is what it is: a bright, fun play -- a chance for a community of performers and its audience to come together and celebrate good times. Nothing more and nothing less.
"The Donkey Show" -- 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and continuing at 8 p.m. March 26-28 and at 2 p.m. March 29. York Arena, Gilmore Theatre complex, Western Michigan University. $20 general, $15 seniors, $5 students. 387-6222, www.wmich.edu/theatre.
Auditions, auditions, classes, rehearsals, shows, performances, and auditions...
Boy, this semester is moving by really quickly. I can't wait for Summer!!!