A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Rated 4.0 A Midsummer Night’s Dream turns up at least once a season, at a summer festival or university production, and it’s endlessly adaptable. Most often, it’s done in a light mood, playing up the fairy realm and the humor of human foibles. But it can be played dark, with the human conflicts taking on a hard, dangerous edge and with the pranks of Puck taking on a crueler, sexual cast. Director Sands Hall charts a middle course and plays Dream for contrasts. There’s plenty of wooing going on, but there’s also that opening scene in which the angry Egeus (A.J. Schuermann) presents his unhappy daughter Hermia with a Hobson’s choice: marry the man he has chosen or be put to death.

The contrast runs through the show’s design. The repressed human characters wear buttoned up costumes in formal 16th-century style. But the spirits of the fairy kingdom are dressed as sensuous gypsies in more revealing, colorful garb. (Rebecca Dines, as Titania, flashes as much belly button as Britney Spears.) Puck wears an open shirt that shows off his slender figure.

Hall also shifts gears in dramatic terms. The scenes in which Bottom and his “rude mechanicals” organize a show are antic comedy. But at other times, Hall slows down the pace, conjuring a mysterious atmosphere that lets the script’s poetry come through.

It’s a good Dream, as worthy a production as any I’ve seen at other festivals in recent years. The problem is that the play’s been done so often; Tahoe Shakespeare has staged this comedy three times in the last eight years. It’s time to branch out.