Sunday, May 02, 2010

A Midsummer Night's Dream


‘A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM,’ a comedy by William Shakespeare, is one of the Bard’s most popular works and one of the English language’s most performed scripts. It concerns the adventures of four young Athenian lovers, a group of amateur actors, some fairies, and Greek gods.

Though a comedy, it is widely believed that the play develops at least two themes: the dark side of love and the blurring of fantasy and reality. As for love, Shakespeare makes light of love by having Puck, the forest’s fairy-in-resident, mistakenly mismatch various couples, including a goddess with an ass.

The plot also makes the fairies such an integral part of the plot that we accept the fantastic reality of the fairy world, and its magical happenings, as natural.

As locals who attend Great Lakes Theatre Festival are aware, Charlie Fee, the theatre’s Artistic Director, has never failed to grasp any and all farcical opportunities. In his vision of ‘A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM,’ his dervish mind flows overboard. This version is set not in Greek times, but in London in the 1960s. And, much like the 1590s, the time of Shakespeare’s life and writing, it’s the time of a flowering youth movement. The Bard used the slang of the day to reflect the times just as Fee uses the voice of youth represented by the music of The Beatles.

Fee has dressed the cast in 1960s clothing, updated Shakespeare’s language and, as he explains in the program, his image included “Lysander and Demetrius as Paul and John, and the Mechanicals (Bottom, Flute, Quince and Company) as Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. You have to give Fee credit. His imagination runs deep.

Since MIDSUMMER is a comedy, without real depth of message, why not play around with the concept, as long as the audience has fun and the cast and director bring the audience a fun filled evening? Remember, that was Shakespeare’s purpose in his comedies.

The first act is draggy, but all heck lets loose in the second act, especially the scenes of mistaken identity, the romps through the fields, and the play within the play.

Aled Davies is fun as Theseus, Gisela Chipe is cute as Hermia, Kevin Crouch is delightful as Lysander, David Anthony Smith is a hoot as Bottom and the Donkey, and Lina Chambers is charming as the lovesick Helena. On the other hand, Eduardo Placer feigns Puck…practically begging for laughs with his surface level portrayal and Dane Agostinis is not on track as Demetrius.

Choreographer Martin Céspedes makes classical actors move like they actually don’t have two left feet. He has a nice touch with the movements of the 70s and inserts hand, feet and body actions that well fit the mood of The Beatle’s sound.

CAPSULE JUDGEMENT: If you are a Shakespearean purist, you’ll run for the exits as soon as the lights go up, you see the costumes and hear the first Beatle song inserted into the script. For the rest of us, we’ll just let Fee have fun and take us along as we rock to Shakespeare.