Friday, February 4, 2011

A Midsummer Night's Dream at South Coast Repertory



Lovers in the woods, the mischief of fairies, a royal wedding, and the tragicomic play of labor workers. All this and more is bundled up in South Coast Repertory's production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

"Led by the wildly inventive director Mark Rucker, off go four young lovers into The Woods on a midsummer evening—when strange and wonderful things are likely to happen.  This shimmering Shakespearean fantasy features the antics of supernatural creatures—the fairies led by Oberon and Titania and, of course, the impish Puck, who creates chaos in the night.  But what fun to join in the dream, knowing that by daylight all will be well in a mystical, moon-drenched masterpiece."


The main action of the play revolves around four lovers who suffer, in various way, from the perils of I love him, but he loves her, and she loves another him, and he loves me. We've all been there before. Things get really murky (and hilariously so) when the fairies of the forest (here portrayed as a band of gypsy-like pajama party-ers looking to cause mischief and steal clothing off the lovers one article at a time) meddle in the humans' affairs with potent love potion from a flower struck by Cupid's arrow. This results in a scantily clad group of befuddled young people trying to make sense of the sudden changes in affections. What fickle lovers we mortals be!

[Nick Gabriel, Kathleen Early, Dana Green and Tobie Windham in South Coast Repertory's 2011 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare.  Photo by Henry DiRocco/SCR.]


Meanwhile, the fairy king and queen, Oberon & Titania, are experiencing a relational dilemma of their own. Oberon is angry with Titania for taking possession of an Indian boy whom she refuses to give up to be Oberon's henchman. Queen or not, to defy the king is not kosher in this fairy kingdom. To get back at her, Oberon has his assistant, Puck, put the aforementioned love potion into Titania's eyes, setting her up to fall in love with the first beast or animal she sees when she wakes.

[Elijah Alexander and Susannah Schulman in South Coast Repertory's 2011 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. Photo by Henry DiRocco/SCR.]

While all this heavy love and fairy action is taking place, a group of common laboring men are rehearsing a play to present to the Athenian king and queen- Theseus and Hippolyta- at their upcoming wedding reception. This ragtag group of dudes provides much (but certainly not all) of the comedic relief of the play. Keep your eyes out for Hal Landon, Jr., who you should recognize as Scrooge from SCR's annual production of A Christmas Carol.

[(l. to r.) Hal Landon Jr., Richard Doyle, Patrick Kerr, William Francis McGuire, Michael Manuel and John-David Keller in South Coast Repertory's 2011 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. Photo by Henry DiRocco/SCR.]

[(l. to r.) John-David Keller, Patrick Kerr, Michael Manuel, Richard Doyle, Hal Landon Jr., and William Francis McGuire in South Coast Repertory's 2011 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. Photo by Henry DiRocco/SCR.]

Back to the fairy king and queen's marital tiff: Puck comes upon the rehearsing laborers and transforms the central actor, Bottom, into a donkey. Well, he turns his head into the head of a donkey. Many jokes regarding asses ensue. Titania awakes and falls for Bottom, who has the head of an ass, and Oberon's plan to humiliate her is well underway.

[(clockwise from bottom left) Dylan DoVale, Ryan Jones, Jaycob Hunter, Jordan Bellow, Rudy Martinez, Emmett Lee Stang, Susannah Schulman, Jennifer Stang and Patrick Kerr in South Coast Repertory's 2011 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. Photo by Henry DiRocco/SCR.]


Without giving away much more of the story, I'll simply say that what follows is nothing short of hilarious and well-played by all involved. At the end of the play, when most play-goers settle into a comfortable lethargy at the story's resolution, this story stirs its viewers into fits of laughter for the funniest scene of all.

[Richard Doyle and Patrick Kerr in South Coast Repertory's 2011 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. Photo by Henry DiRocco/SCR.]

Also, in this unique and intriguing production of the classic play, the fairies at times burst into dance and song set to psychedelic soul music. And why shouldn't they? I'd do the same thing if I were a fairy, methinks.

[Susannah Schulman in South Coast Repertory's 2011 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. Photo by Henry DiRocco/SCR.]



All that to say, you simply won't want to miss this one. Each actor shines in his/her own right, and the individual charms and quirks of each fit swimmingly into the play's action, making it a stunning production overall.

For tickets or further info, visit SCR's website.

-Blythe

on my iTunes: Feist's "1 2 3 4"

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