‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ Is Full of Laughter, Music and Romance

By Richard Green
In Culture

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” may be the perfect play for the the outdoor stage in Shakespeare Glen, between the Art Museum and the Zoo. The show is beautiful to look at, easy to follow, and full of laughter and music and romance.  It’s also free of charge, through June 26, 2016.

Photo by J. David Levy

Photo by J. David Levy

It certainly seems perfect, under the direction of Festival chief Rick Dildine, who coaches a great cast. The young lovers are heartbreaking and delightful, the royals are handsome and regal, and the village “mechanicals” wrap up the whole show in an orgasm of comedy at the end.

Now I know what you’re thinking. And everyone (not just you) has a story of some English teacher who “ruined” Shakespeare for them, or of productions that seemed dull and wooden. Or maybe it’s just that the people who say terrible things about Shakespeare simply can’t be bothered to pay attention, even to this streamlined version.

(Hey, wait, maybe this show is also a great relationship test:  “If your boyfriend won’t listen to Shakespeare, what makes you think he’ll listen to you?”)

But it’s a genuine light comedy, full of mistaken identities, tinged with lovely longing, and set to dancing with modern folk songs.

There’s genuine glamor in this Titania (Nancy Anderson), with a magic gown that spreads out in all directions to encompass her fairy minions, which also ensnares Stephen Pilkington (as the infamous prima-donna Bottom).  And then there’s a dash of borrowed glamor in Ms. Anderson’s silky voice, reminding us of Angela Lansbury 50 years ago; and Mr. Pilkington’s “character voice,” which calls to mind the 1960s comic Arnold Stang.

Other magic comes from the simple device of having three separate stage “aprons” out front, creating multiple planes of action before us, and an act two opener that’s mesmerizing in its simplicity:  all the lovers in the dark, holding tiny lamps, chanting  beautifully.

All the never-fail-to-make-us-wistful, original songs are by Peter Mark Kendall, while the towering set (of farcical slamming doors) by Scott C. Neale is frequently good for a laugh.  This show’s Puck adds to the legerdemain, defying the laws of physics when he appears here or there (much faster than expected) thanks to actors Austin G. Jacobs and Ryan A. Jacobs.

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