By William Shakespeare
Directed by Gary Griffin
At Chicago Shakespeare
Fabulous cast performs The Bard’s comedy with zest and flare
Under Gary Griffin’s direction, A Midsumer Night’s Dream looks gorgeous (set by Daniel Ostling, lighting by Philip S. Rosenberg with video by Mike Tuta). Framing The Bard’s light comedy with references to Sigmund Freud’s work on dreams in 1920 (period perfect costumes by Mara Blumenfeld), Griffin has cast the cream of Chicago’s impressive list of classical players led by Timothy Edward Kane. With yeomen work from a group of misfits, led by Ron Orbach as Nick Bottom, Midsummer rollicks with cleverness and verve.
The story: A troupe of local actors gather in the forest to rehearse a play that, hopefully they’ll perform for the Duke Theseus (Timothy Edward Kane) on his wedding night. At the Athenian court, Egeus (Kurt Ehrmann) seeks the Duke’s intervention in a family matter since his daughter Hermia (Christina Nieves) refuses to marry Demetrius (Matt Schwader), Egeus’ choice. She loves Lysander (Andy Truschinski). Athen law dictates that Hermia must marry Demetrius or live as a nun or die. She flees with Lysander to the forest with Demetrius in pursuit. Helena smitten with Demetrius follows him into the forest.
Move to the forest where the four lovers sleep as the fairy king Oberon and his queen Titania (Tracey Michelle Arnold) are having domestic troubles that find Oberon jealous of Titania’s devotion to a young changeling boy. Oberon commands his fairy Puck (Elizabeth Ledo) to use the magic flower that makes its victim adore the first creature it sees. Oberon takes pity on Helena and instructs Puck to find her man and enchant him. Puck screws that up since all Athenians look alike. Also Puck transforms Bottom into an ass to trick Titania to the delight of Oberon. the story hilariously plays out to result in a happy ending that finds each lover with their dream lover.
The dream state where sleep makes each dream into a vision through rich use of imagination is vividly and enchantingly presented in Midsummer. Shakespeare get us to realize that dreaming will get us self-knowledge that will enable us to see our folly and get us to awaken to our real desires. We can indeed like our dreams and we can act upon them.
The four lovers get their soul mates while the fairy king and queen and the Duke realize their inter desires. The Mechanicals: Tim Kazurinsky, Ron Orbach, Leven Riddle, Michael Aaron Linder, Richard Manera and Rod Thomas complete the comedy with a quite funny play-within-a-play featuring comic songs (by Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen). This hilarious scene features Ron Orbach and the crew’s slap-stick physical and musical antics that garner belly laughs.
Puck sums up Midsummer with the famous parting speech:
“If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding, but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend;
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck,
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long:
Else the Puck a liar call.
So good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.”
What can I add except that Chicago Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a family-friendly comedy that is a perfect first Shakespeare experience for young folks. Kane, Ledo and Orbach lead the gifted cast on their dream adventure.
Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast
Date Reviewed: February 15, 2012
Fro more info checkout the A Midsummer Night’s Dream page on theatreinchicago.com.
At Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, tickets $44 – $75, tunning time is 2 hours, 20 minutes with intermission, through April 8, 2012, www.chicagoshaakes.com/dream