A Midsummer Night's Dream

The magical, unearthly delights of Shakespeare's classic come to life in a new production


Through June 23

Tickets are $13-46

(510) 548-9666


Bruns Memorial Amphitheater, Gateway Boulevard (off Highway 24), Orinda

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The beauty of this marvelous tale about love, fairies, and natural aphrodisiacs is that you cannot see it too many times. Perhaps Shakespeare's most visually compelling work, complete with lush forest settings and sprightly mythological creatures, A Midsummer Night's Dream presents a feast of unearthly delights that can rival (arguably) some of the outrageous Burning Man proceedings. In the play, young Hermia is being forced by her father to marry Demetrius despite her undying and reciprocated love for another man, Lysander. To avoid this union, Hermia and Lysander run from Athens into the woods, only to be followed by a sword-wielding Demetrius, who in turn is followed by his lovesick suitor, Helena, whom he detests. The four humans cross paths with a bunch of forest fairies that play all sorts of tricks on them with floral love potions. This results in a series of unscrupulous pairings, including that of the Fairy Queen and a chubby local actor who's been temporarily turned into an ass. With the assistance of a good cast and some funky stage design (an AstroTurf stage accessorized with a giant crescent moon from which actors often hang), director Jonathan Moscone amps up the comedy embedded in the text with playful doses of physical humor, most effective in the desperate-girl-chases-boy scenes (so funny here, we almost forgive the touch of misogyny). The wonderful play-within-a-play bits, in which a local all-male acting troupe puts on a show for the Athenian duke, are also great fun as the overzealous actors take on a plethora of roles, including those of a woman, a lion, and a big brick wall. Susannah Schulman's comical portrayal of Helena is highly commendable, as is Colman Domingo's flamboyant characterization of the love-struck Lysander. Andy Murray plays the Fairy King's mischievous servant, Puck, a beer-swilling hobo who finds delicious mirth in the weaknesses and idiocies inherent in the human condition. Philosophizing on the nonsensical nature of romantic love, Puck embodies the essence of the play when he chides: "Oh what fools these mortals be." Indeed.

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