As we all know, when the sun sinks behind the canyon hills, there is magic in the night.
And when the players took their places for the opening night (really a matinee) of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theatricum Botanicum’s stage was immediately filled with mirth, merriment, and magic when the fairies came out to play.
An annual tradition among Canyon folk, the signature production is a revelatory and exciting play to see with friends and children, who will all delight in the fairies’ antics, the love triangles, and, of course, magic. How could they possibly not learn to love Shakespeare.
Brilliantly directed by Willow Geer, the play opens in Athens, where there is much rejoicing when Theseus, Duke of Athens (Christopher Wallinger), is betrothed to Hippolyta, fierce queen of the Amazons (Claire Blackwelder).
To prepare for the Duke’s nuptials, Nick Bottom, the weaver (in a skillful, hilarious tour-de-force performance by Christopher W. Jones), and his “course-handed” friends rehearse an ancient play they hope to perform for the wedding celebrations.
Meanwhile, four young Athenians are in a romantic quandary—Lysander (Eric Flores) and Demetrius (Roman Guastaferro) both love Hermia (Maya Brattkus); Hermia loves Lysander and her best friend, Helena (Jordann Zbylski), loves Demetrius. Unfortunately, Hermia’s mother, Egeus (Natalie Eleftheriadis), commands Hermia to marry Demetrius and Theseus supports the mother’s right.
In despair, the young Athenians escape into the forest, whereupon the mischievous Robin Goodfellow, aka Puck (Jackie Anglin-Simon), servant to the fairy king Oberon, introduces himself into the melee.
Oberon (Michael McFall) has observed the lovers’ plight, and commands Puck to find a flower which, when dusted upon the eyes of Demetrius while sleeping, will cause him to fall in love with the first person he sees when he awakes. It is meant to be Helena but Puck finds Lysander who upon waking sees Helena and falls madly in love with her and scorns Hermia.
Lord, what fools these mortals be,” says Puck.
Deep in the forest, we find Oberon quarreling with his wife, Titania (Melora Marshall), over possession of a changeling boy, and both separate in high dudgeon. These two seasoned actors command the stage and not for a moment will you believe they are not king and queen of the faeries.
In his anger, Oberon instructs Puck to take the flower and dust Titania’s eyes with it when she is asleep, thus causing her to fall in love with the first person she sees upon waking. It is, of course, Bottom, whom Puck, with his magic, has turned into an ass. The fairies are a-twitter and flitter and flutter with worry for their Queen.
Thus, the plot thickens, and delightful chaos ensues. Will Titania be forever in love with an ass? Will Helena find true love with Demetrius? Will Lysander ever love Hermia again? And what of Oberon and Titania?
This year’s Dream bursts forth with fresh ideas in a confident, well-paced production, funny, full of life, and oh, so energetic! Credit must be given to professional aerialist, Lexi Pearl for her choreography and the extraordinary fight scenes.
This is a charming and highly recommended production. When you attend a performance, be prepared to be enchanted, enthralled, and transformed, as if from a dream.
As the play concludes, Puck appeals to the audience:
“If we shadows have offended,
Know but this and all is mended.
That you have but slumbered here,
While these visions did appear,
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding, but a dream.”
Performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream continue through Monday, Sept. 2 (Labor Day) at 6 p.m. A Prologue (pre-show discussion with the directors and actors, included in the ticket price) will take place, Sunday, June 23, from 3–3:30 p.m.
Tickets: Adults, $42 (lower tier) $26 (upper tier); seniors (65+) students, military veterans, teachers, AEA members: $25/$15; children (5-15): $10; children 4 and under: Free.n
For tickets, subscriptions, group discounts, and a full schedule of theater, music, and family entertainment, call (310) 455-3723 or go to www.theatricum.com.