Same night, different dreams
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Sacramento, CA 95814
They may have started with the same script and opened competing productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream on the same weekend, but the Sacramento Theatre Company and Nevada County’s Sierra Stages Community Theatre came up with two very different shows.
STC’s easy-to-enjoy version utilizes a cast of nine, with double and triple casting and quick costume changes. Here, director Christine Nicholson favors a “fast and physical” approach, interpreting the scenes between dizzy lovers and competing suitors in humorously absurd and often acrobatic terms. Instead of swords, men draw skinny sticks of kindling wood. Throughout, Nicholson employs the nimble style she’s developed staging British pantos at Sacramento City College’s City Theatre in recent years.
STC’s show benefits from several Shakespeare veterans. Lanky Carolyn Howarth is hilarious as fairy queen Titania, and Michael R.J. Campbell stands out in several small roles. Above all, Matt K. Miller has a field day playing Bottom (the hammy would-be actor who gets a donkey head in a fairy prank). Still, Bottom’s costume at STC is a bit disappointing—his donkey head is little more than bunny ears, undercutting what should be a shocking transformation.
Meanwhile, the Sierra Stages production sports 18 actors and a better look—the handsome set by Mike Edwards evokes redwoods, and Sharon Olson’s costumes call to mind an Irish style. Director Jac Royce also works in some darkish moments along the way: There’s a frosty edge to Oberon and Titania’s squabbling, and when young Demetrius and Lysander draw real swords (not sticks), you sense they could do serious harm. It’s not all played for laughs.
Veteran actor Robert Rossman puts his mellifluous voice to good use as Theseus and Oberon, and director Royce focuses on the poetry more than Nicholson at STC. But most of the Sierra Stages cast is new to Shakespeare—they know their lines, but they’re still learning how to make the language sparkle. However, I did enjoy Isaias Acosta as a stocky, round-faced Bottom, braying and itching while wearing his donkey head.