Festival brings the Bard to park
S.F. group presents Shakespeare's magical 'Midsummer'
By Pat Craig, Contra Costa Times
If you want to perform a Shakespeare play outdoors in the summer,
there is probably no better choice than "A Midsummer Night's
Dream." Shakespeare's fantastic tale of romance and magic in
a mysterious forest almost begs for an outdoor summertime setting,
and San Francisco Shakespeare Festival takes full advantage of that
in its production of "Midsummer," which opened Sunday
in Pleasanton's Amador Valley Community Park, the start of a summer-long
tour around the Bay Area.
The production is still rough in spots. And it needs to develop
more of a sense of playfulness and fun to go along with its stylized
presentation, which blends Exotic Erotic Ball with Disco Inferno
to enhance the other-worldly aspects of the show and gives it
an edgy sort of local flavor.
This "Midsummer" really begins to roll when the romantic
action enters the woods, and the hormone- and magic-potion-charged
lovers, fairies and sprites frolic late into the night in headlong
pursuit of romance.
The woods are also the place where we meet the rude mechanicals,
a group of craftsmen, who, we are told, have never before labored
in their minds. Now, however, they are going about the task of
staging a version of the "Pyramus and Thisbe" story,
which they will perform at the wedding of the Duke.
They are completely inept and wildly hilarious as they go about
their rehearsals and musings on the nature of drama's impact on
their betters, particularly the ladies.
Together, this band of six -- played by David Fierro, Gary S.
Martinez, Lewis Sims, Christina Vecchiato, Mick Mize and Colin
Thomson -- presents one of the most amusing versions of the troupe
I've seen. And Martinez, as Bottom, flat-out steals the show with
his rich characterization, which presents the hapless weaver as
an overly theatrical know-it-all. He tries to become the star
of the mechanicals' show but ends up the donkey-headed lover of
Fairy Queen Titania (Emily Jordan), much to the delight of her
husband, Oberon (Michael C. Storm), and Puck, the sprite (Rowan
Brooks) who helps make the spell possible.
The show's young lovers, running wild in the forest (both to
escape the will of a parent and just because their passion is
explosive), provide a wonderful counterbalance to the crazy mechanicals
and bizarre fairies (who, in the real world, are royalty). Summer
Serafin, John Sousa, Nicholas Pelczar and Maria Grazia Affinito
turn the romantic romp in the forest into a pitched battle of
infatuation gone mad. Their energy drives the yearning of the
long night, but here is where a bit more playfulness would go
a long way.
Director Kenneth Kelleher has created a satisfying and highly
energetic show that captures the spirit and breathtaking sense
of longing for love that Shakespeare seems to have intended. He
does seem to have taken great pains, though, to highlight every
line or instance that could have been intended as some sort of
phallic reference. It's funny a time or two, but more than that
is sort of like underlining the steamy parts in a racy novel.
But that's only a trifle; in all it's a great way to spend a
midsummer night -- and, like most good things in the summer, it's
Pat Craig is the Times theater critic. Reach him at 925-945-4736
WHAT: San Francisco Shakespeare Festival presents "A Midsummer
Night's Dream" by William Shakespeare
WHEN / WHERE: times vary; see schedule
RUNNING TIME: 2 hours, 30 minutes
HOW MUCH: Free