A “sexy and fascinating” midsummer night
Charlene Baldridge | Downtown News
This summer the eucalyptus grove behind the Old Globe’s outdoor stage is filled with fairies – at least 12 of them. That is, unless one also counts Titania, the fairy queen, her vengeful consort Oberon, and Oberon’s quicksilver factotum, Puck, who seems to straddle two worlds – human and fairy – in guest director Ian Talbot’s production of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
In fact, the production seems to indicate that Puck could be the unseen Changeling Boy about whom Oberon and Titania are at loggerheads; and furthermore, that Oberon’s herbal magic, which causes Titania to love an ass, may have taken place eons ago and has been repeating over the course of millennia.
As Puck (Lucas Hall) declares, “… what fools these mortals be,” the mortals are indeed foolish. Their enchantment or intoxication, as provided by a purple flower, causes the comedy. They are the adorable Hermia (Winslow Corbett), who is in love with Lysander (Adam Gerber).
Hermia’s father, Egeus (Sherman Howard), would have her wed Demetrius (Nic Few), who is beloved by the bookish Helena (Ryman Sneed). Hermia and Lysander run away into the forest, followed by Demetrius, pursued by Helena.
Enchanted by magic (drugged) the kids become terribly mixed up. The young actors are appealing, able and fun to watch, especially when Talbot uses the real forest for some unexpected and inventive mayhem that elicits scream of laughter. He’s been directing outdoor Shakespeare productions in Great Britain for years, so it’s no wonder he’s got a bag full of tricks.
The rest of the company is wondrous, beginning with Jay Whittaker, who plays both Theseus, ruler of Athens, and Oberon, who rules the fairy realm. For Theseus, Whittaker affects an anal retentive persona and a high, whiney voice that drives his fiancée, Hippolyta (Lucas), to flee in the opposite direction. Whittaker is the most physical and overtly sexy Oberon ever seen. In cahoots with Hall’s horn-dog Puck, they are quite a pair.
Miles Anderson, remembered as Salieri in last season’s “Amadeus,” plays Bottom the Weaver, who is transformed into an ass and whose bubble bath is a delight. Bottom is one of six working-class commoners that enact “Pyramus and Thisbe,” a crudely written tragedy by Peter Quince (Charles Janasz). It is performed to celebrate the nuptials of Theseus and Hippolyta and the now sorted out young people.
Whatever critters the fascinating fairies may be and however foolish the mortals are, Talbot serves up one of the sexiest, most fascinating, most musical and magical productions of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” ever witnessed in long experience of the play. Bound to be a huge hit with audiences, the work bears repeat visits ere it vanishes into thin air September 29.
The first of the three Old Globe Shakespeare Festival productions to open in the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way, Balboa Park, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” continues in rotating repertory with “The Merchant of Venice” and Tom Stoppard’s “Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.” Many in the repertory company play in all three works. More information and tickets at theoldglobe.org or phone 619-23-GLOBE.
Charlene Baldridge moved to San Diego from the Chicago area in 1962. She’s been writing about the arts since 1979, and has had her features, critiques, surveys and interviews included in various publications ever since. Her book San Diego, Jewel of the California Coast (Northland Publishing) is currently available in bookstores. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.