A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Rated 5.0

Director Michael Walling’s outdoor production of this evergreen comedy begins conventionally enough, with the humans in modern dress (and soon the young lovers strip to undergarments, a transition scene in several recent productions). Actor Patrick DeSantis does Bottom as a Bruce Springsteen wannabe, with a bandana around his head, growling his way through a song.

Walling dresses Shakespeare’s nature-spirits in American Indian feathers and hides. Titania carries a papoose; Oberon looks like a chieftan.

But what begins as a cute costume conceit deepens into an elegant reimagining of this oft-produced play. Puck becomes a coyotelike trickster from tribal legend. And lines like the “the wolf behowls the moon” take on fresh resonance when chanted under the starry sky, with moonlight on Lake Tahoe’s waters. The imagery goes from traditional “English garden pretty” to an expansive Western landscape, in a moving way.

There is haunting music performed onstage by American Indian flutist K. Mockingbird, an inspired addition. And Walling’s spiritual finale (part Shakespeare, part tribal rite) is serene and visionary—also well-grounded in the text. You may have seen other productions before, but you haven’t seen a Dream quite like this one.