Spotlight: A Midsummer Night's Dream
The striking thing about A Midsummer Night's Dream, no matter how many times one has crossed paths with it, is how relentlessly weird it is. Shakespeare hijacks folklore to radically shift his characters' romantic passions; love lasts about as long as it takes to couple in a shrub. There's even a hint that the Bard may have been the creator of the Tijuana donkey show. Director Jef Hall-Flavin has pared down his cast so that the core actors play three roles each: in the worlds of the nobility, the ethereal fairy realm, and the low-down milieu of the comically buffoonish would-be thespians. Youthful actors play the four young lovers, and while at times they lack gravity, they bring enthusiasm to their work. The pivotal knock-down drag-out in the forest is particularly bright, with Lysander (Matt Rein) and Demetrius (Aaron Cook, at times looking like Liam Gallagher's lost younger brother) knocking away at one another with their misplaced ardor. Hermia (Hope Cervantes), meanwhile, vengefully throws down with Helena (Jaimi Paige). Holding down the experienced side of the equation are Brian Sostek as a nimble and frequently deranged Puck, and Terry Hempleman, who turns on the goofy magnetism as yokel blowhard Nick Bottom. More than anything, the action in the forest comes across as a sort of fight among friends, fueled by illicit substances, that, come morning, everyone tacitly agrees never to mention again. Ultimately, this Park Square production succeeds at getting across Shakespeare's knotty concept that our most deeply held passions might be the playthings of forces beyond our control, and that our precious identities may be little more than disposable masks. If nothing else, this play hints that making an ass of yourself isn't the worst thing you can do.
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