It simply would not do for the lovers Pyramus and Thisbe to quietly and discreetly kill themselves.
Not when a group of well-meaning but overly dramatic dock workers is presenting the story of the tragic couple as part of the play within a play at King’s College.
“I think you should bang your head on the floor twice,” director Sheileen Corbett told Lukas Tomasacci during a recent rehearsal for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which opens Wednesday.
In his role as Bottom, who in turn plays the doomed Pyramus, Tomasacci moaned and groaned and tangled himself in a piece of bloody clothing that appeared to indicate Thisbe had been killed by a lion.
Pyramus staggered. He fell to his knees. He loudly bewailed his lost love.
Then he endured quite a protracted death scene.
“Take it to a point where we hope it’s over,” Corbett told the actor. “Then go up on your feet again.”
Eventually, Pyramus was quite dead, slain by his own hand.
But Corbett had more scene-building to do.
Turning her attention to John Bubul, who plays Flute, who in turn plays Thisbe, Corbett told him to enter skipping, “like Little Red Riding Hood going to Grandma’s house,” and “keep going ‘la-la-la’ until you trip” over Pyramus, who was lying on the stage.
“You’re going to roll him over … pound on his chest … give me a very big moan and a sob if you can,” the director said, adding, to the amusement of the rest of the cast, that Thisbe should kiss Pyramus goodbye.
All that action and hilarity is just part of a single scene in one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. Attend “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and you’ll also meet Theseus, duke of Athens, preparing for his marriage to Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons,the feuding king and queen of the faeries, Oberon and Titania, the mischievous Puck and two pairs of lovers who have run away into a mangrove forest.
Corbett made the setting an island, “modern but not quite contemporary,” turned the Athenian “mechanicals” into dock workers and centers the action on the mast of a ship that appears very climbable.
Who will climb the mast? Will anyone swing from the ropes?
“I am not at liberty to say,” Corbett said with a laugh.