Shakespeare Orange County’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a celebration of cultures where the community is diverse. The Hitia O Te Ra Dance Company, including dancers and drummers, become an integral part of the story allowing for a creative translation.
Oberon, played by Miguel Perez, and Titania, played by Amanda Zarr, gracefully walk into the magical forest facing the audience then each other. They move their arms and hands to the sounds of the forest. With their hands moving in the air between them, they create magic. They pull a group of dancers from one side then another and another until the Hitia O Te Ra dancers are pouring into the theatre with drum accompaniment. The young female dancers use their knees and toes to help them swing their hips. The grass bounces up and down with the movement accenting white, slit skirts. Their curly hair pours around them and under an ornate headdress with feathers, flowers, seashells and grass. The young male dancers are in coordinating white slit pants showing their defined thigh muscles. The opening Polynesian dance is called Te Ari’l (The Prince), about Prince Hauari’i, who is The Prince of Peace born on a peaceful and prosperous island. The sound of drums and shouts of joy came from the villagers when the Prince arrived.
The Athenian officers watch the natives dance from afar. Different drums are beating different rhythms while the female dancers dance together and the young men dance, lining up on the other side of the stage. When the dancing stops Titania (Zarr) grabs the Indian Boy, played by Solomona Tafua, being pulled by Oberon's (Perez) force. She doesn’t want to give up her deceased mistress’ child. Tafua is adorable, dressed as The Prince in his white skirt and huge headdress adorned with a white flower extending over the crown of his head.
Theseus, played by Jeremy Schaeg, and Hippolyta, played by Kapua Miyahira-Chow, enter preparing for their wedding which involves the joining of two very different cultures. Schaeg’s Theseus embraces this new Polynesian culture. He creates a strong thread through the story as he deals with Egeus (Bryan Taylor). Taylor’s Egeus is distraught over his daughter Hermia’s choice for a suitor. Mikki Pagdonsolan plays a sweet Hermia until a funny and entertaining Helena (Patricia Fa’asua) enters moaning over her situation. Fa’asua’s phrasing of the words and her embracing of Lysander get the audience laughing. Lysander, played dramatically by EJ Arriola, is also good as he falls in and out of love with Hermia.
Evelyn Carol Case as Puck is a lovable fairy following orders from her King Oberon. Case delights in the meddling of her Queen’s life and that of the human lover’s. Puck giggles while sprinkling flower juice into the eyes of Demetrius (Morgan Laugh) and Lysander who then both fall in love with Helena. It’s another great set up for Fa’asua’s Helena to over-dramatize her situation and believe a mockery is being made of her.
The beautiful Zarr as Titania is also in a predicament, but unknowingly as Puck sprinkles flower juice into Titania’s eyes. Case's Puck then kicks in the air, releasing a magic spell that causes Nick Bottom (Thomas Bradac) to follow her without question behind the curtain. Returning with him in a donkey mask, she laughs and leads him to Titania. Titania awakes and is enraptured by Bradac’s hee-hawing. It is a humorous juxtaposition to see how this tall Queen of the Fairy Kingdom in a white flowing gown, gold crown and green eye shadow is bewitched by Bradac’s barn animal noises, large ears and snout.
Michael Drace Fountain's set design is well-crafted and very detailed. In the middle, off center is a rise decorated with native plants. To the left is a balcony used to blow a horn to call and gather the island’s people. On the other side is a wooden balcony and patio cover with barrels and flowers forming a back-drop of a Polynesian Island port.
Costume designer Shon LeBlanc beautifully incorporates the Athenian uniforms with the native dressings. Theseus and Egeus are in smart white and blue uniform coats, relaxed cotton pants embellished with gold buttons and seashell necklaces around their necks. Hippolyta, Helena and Hermia wear feminine floral print dresses. Each fairy is dressed in a different pastel color with material flowing around them, tights underneath and gauze in the hair. The Mechanicals are dressed in gingham shirts and nickers with Dickensian shoes. From the Athenian Society to the Fairy Kingdom to the Mechanicals every group has an encompassing theme. The traditional Polynesian dancers wear their own crisp colored regalia. They either wear a solid color of white, yellow or green to signify something in the dance like yellow skirts symbolize love and friendship.
Director Susan Angelo’s interpretation of Midsummer creates cohesion out of chaos. In the playbill she writes, “Playing with Elizabethan traditions of fairy folklore, court pageantry, superstition and curiosity about what lies outside England, the play becomes a kaleidoscope through which we see different worlds bumping into one another, creating friction and chaos, but ultimately uniting through the power of love.” Having the Hitia O Te Ra Dance Company with drums led by Alex Tekurio and choreography by Malia Tafu is an excellent and seamless enhancement to the story of Midsummer. The Prince of Peace folklore is perfect to interchange for the changeling boy, who is sent away until he can return with peace.
Shakespeare Orange County’s production is a unique Midsummer with a Polynesian theme. Director Angelo brings together the local community, celebrating many cultures. The show is truly a multi-cultural experience.