A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the most oft-produced Shakespeare comedy, and this version by Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is the third SN&R’s reviewed this year. Much of the play’s popularity stems from the script’s endless flexibility. While nominally set in ancient Athens, Dream is so inviting to interpretation that savvy directors can (and do) introduce all manner of fascinating design concepts. And the humor, involving eager young lovers and contentious older couples, is funny in almost any setting. Which is part of why audiences enjoy seeing this play again and again: No two productions are alike. Part of the fun comes from seeing what interesting new angle they’ll come up with. Dream has become very much a “director’s piece.”
In this production, director Charlie Fee works a psychedelic, British-invasion concept. Puck wears paisley and a top hat, along with a mischievous grin. Young Hermia frolics in a miniskirt, counterpart Helena wears tight pants with electric-orange stripes. The fairy rulers Oberon and Titania are decked out in flowing robes and blossoms, like ethereal gurus from an Indian meditation retreat. The Rude Mechanicals perform their hilarious play-within-a-play in bright satiny jackets—agrave; la Sgt. Pepper—and a Volkswagen Bug rolls through several scenes. The sound design is packed with short musical quotations from middle-period Beatles songs (mostly love songs), focusing on lyrics cleverly selected to complement the action in the scene the music accompanies.
It’s a very appealing mix, feeling so natural that you’d almost think Shakespeare (who was not averse to borrowing!) had written it this way. Also noteworthy: The cast includes 11 Actors’ Equity Association performers—the most we’ve seen in a Shakespeare show in these parts in years—and they’re good. Let’s single out Carie Kawa and Mic Matarrese (the tempestuous Titania and Oberon), Shad Willingham (as eager amateur actor Bottom), and Jeffrey C. Hawkins (Puck).