Saturday June 24th 2017

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

Highly Recommended*****Very often, we are asked to see plays that we have reviewed many times before, but one of the wonders of live theater is that each venue and each director’s interpretation of the same script, makes for a new look. Thus is the case with the current production of William Shakespeare’s classic comedy,”A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, now on the stage at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. Under the slick direction of Gary Griffin, who has assembled an “ace” cast of actors, this play takes on a new look, a more modern look and some of the comic highlights are even funnier than in previous productions I have seen.

Unlike previous productions, we are now in almost present time as Sigmund Freud introduces the interpretation of dreams and we, the audience get to watch the mayhem as young lovers discover their inner selves and enter the age of self discovery. I think most theater lovers are familiar with the storyline, but just to make sure, here is the “Gist”. Duke Theseus is about to marry Hippolyta, the conquered queen of the Amazons. The Duke has been asked to intercede with a problem involving some young lovers,Hermia refuses to marry  Demetrius ( her father’s choice) because she is in love with Lysander. The law of Athens says that she must wed Demetrius, become a nun or die. She runs off with Lysander and Demetrius follows, who is also followed by Helena, Hermia’s best friend.

While this is going on, as a gift to the Duke and his betrothed, a group of local workers are putting together a play to win the favor fo the duke. They are rehearsing in the same forest that the four young people enter.In the forest, the Fairy King, Oberon and his Queen, Titania are having some problems of their own and so Oberon plans to teach her a lesson. He uses his magical fairy Puck to fetch the flower that will  make the party that is hit with the magic dust fall in love with the first person they see and this is the start of the mayhem of love between the wrong parties, but as in all of The Bard’s comedies, “All’s Well That Ends Well” and we indeed have a happy ending.

This is a magical 2 1/2 hours of comedy, directed, in fact, almost choreographed, by Griffin who is the master of the musical and shows that his talent goes far beyond one form of theater.. The actual choreography is by Matt Raftery. Dan Ostling’s set is simple allowing us to concentrate on the action, and the lighting (Philip S. Rosenberg) and sound (Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen) along with the costumes by Mara Blumenfeld are the icing on the cake.

When it comes down to it, it is the cast of actors under Griffin’s direction, that make this a special evening of theater. The Duke/Oberon is handled with just the right touch by Timothy Edward Kane. His lady loves,Hippolyta/Titania deftly handled by Tracy Michelle Arnold. Both of these actors are able to handle the dual roles with each character having their own special personalities. The young lovers are played by Laura Huizenga (Helena),Christina Nieves (Hermia),Matt Schwader (Demetrius) and Andy Truschinski(Lysander)- they all play their roles to perfection and handle all the slapstick that has been added to this version with great skill and dexterity.

The “players”- the townsmen who are to prepare the play are a very important part of the play. In fact, the actual performance of the play they do is worth the price of the ticket alone. Twenty minutes of pure laughter as the little musical production is performed- a real treat, thanks to the likes of Richard Manera ( who’s lion is adorable),Sean Parris ( Philostrate, the female lead in the play), Rod Thomas ( who does a funny bit as the moon),Michael Aaron Lindner (  as snout, who is also the wall),The comical Tim Kazurinsky as Peter Quince , the author/director of the production and last but not least, the extraordinary performance of Ron Orbach as Nick Bottom. I never want to ignore newcomers to the stage, in particular kids, so I want to make mention of the adorable Matthew Abraham as the Changeling ( this is double cast, with Chase Jones alternating).The ensemble is solid ,as always and Puck, the magical little fairy is handled to perfection by Elizabeth Ledo, who is small enough in size to be a fairy, but large enough in talent to take this part to new heights despite having what appeared to be some throat problems ( she never faltered). This is a cast that enjoys playing their roles as much as we enjoyed watching them and that makes the magic even more magical.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will continue at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier through April 8th .To view the schedule of performances and special events visit www.chicagoshakes.com

Tickets range from $44-$75 and can be purchased at the box office, by phone at 312-595-5600 or online at www.chicagoshakes.com/dream

There is discount parking at the garage (40% off) so bring your ticket to the box office and enjoy the dream.

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