A well-crafted stage in the middle of the park greets the audience at a Shakespeare by the Sea production. People buzz around the platform with dogs where families are eating a homemade picnic dinner. There is a glimpse of Roman costumes as actors walk around selling raffle tickets to win a trip for two to Hawaii.
The filigree woodcut half-moon is apropos for a night of Shakespeare in the park. The yellow moon sits back on the stage. There is more yellow filigree forming a tree to the side and leaves and vines covering the front of the lower stage. It’s no wonder the stage delights with credits including ABC’s Extreme Makeover: Home Edition from scenic designer Aaron Jackson.
From the beginning it’s a silly production. The audience is greeted by an actor who says he sleeps in the park exactly where one man happens to be sitting. The actor suddenly becomes enraged, insisting the man get out of his sleeping spot. It's a ludicrous exchange.
Then the mood becomes mildly serious when Egeus (Andy Kallok) throws his daughter Hermia (Olivia Schlueter-Corey) to the ground demanding she marry Demetrius (Garret Replogle). But the story of Hermia (Schlueter-Corey), Lysander (Robert McHalffey), Helena (Bridget Garwood) and Demetrius (Garret Replogle) stands above all as these four lovers' affections are criss-crossed by the mischievous Puck (G. Anthony Joseph). Helena’s Garwood gets on all fours begging Demetrius to be her lover. She barks, then tugs on his clothes with her teeth. She jumps on his back as he tries to escape. As expected Puck (Joseph) pours juice in Repogle’s eyes and he awakens madly in love with Garwood. Feeling mocked, she slaps him in the face getting an aghast reaction from the audience.
The great king Oberon (B.J. Allman) is jealous of his queen Titania’s (Kathryn Farren) affections for the unseen changeling, Bottom. Allman also plays Theseus and Farren plays Hippolyta as an angry Russian. More silliness. Titania (Farren) is delighted by Bottom (Patrick Vest) when he nays like a horse and when the mechanicals see him they run through the park. Suddenly, a little girl in the audience stands up and also runs after one of the mechanicals. All this running causes two dogs to run, play and rough-house. The child then returns, following the actor back to the stage.
In the play within the play, Flute (Greg Prusiewicz) fondles the "brick" in the wall to great comic relief. When Bottom dies Flute speak-cries in a high-pitch voice, which does not disappoint.
When the confusion between the four lovers is peaceful again Demetrius and Lysander wake up next to each other. At one point, they almost kiss. But the silliness interrupts again and drags.
Direction by Patrick Vest is true to the period. The comedy is drawn out of the four young lovers, the Mechanicals and the mishaps between Bottom and Titania. The costumes are period with a Roman theme. Helena wears an ombre orange dress with a gold belt and a crown around her blond wig and ankle sandals. Minus the wig and crown, she could walk offstage and blend in with many of today’s trends. Even the guys rock the sandals. Demetrius’ sandals have buckles made of taupe leather that lead up to below the knee. The men wear faux leather chest protectors with straps hanging around the waist. The Mechanicals are color coordinated with reds, golds and browns. The costumer Jamie Brown has a little fun putting Puck in purple pants, a faux fur vest and matching fur hat with horns.
Lisa Coffi Founder and Producing Artistic Director said that Hamlet drew in a crowd of 1450 people the night before in Newport Beach, California. They expect a larger crowd in the same town for Midsummer since it is a comedy. Newport Beach is a city that loves to support the arts and theatres like Shakespeare by the Sea.
All in all, Shakespeare by the Sea’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a journey of mishaps and confusion that makes the audience laugh, children run and dogs play.