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BWW Review: Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' Fantastic A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

BWW Review: Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' Fantastic A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

It's always fun to take in the many treats available at Shakespeare Festival St. Louis each year in Forest Park, and I'm not just talking about the food and drink stands, but also all the performers, mini-versions of the show, etc, that take place before the main attraction begins (arrive early). And,with the weather just a touch cooler there's no excuse not to attend, Besides, it's truly special watching a classic work by the immortal bard under the stars. This year a most apropos example of his work, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, takes flight in the wooded confines, exactly the place where the action of this play occurs. It's a match made in heaven, and it's also a work that, as I've stated in other reviews, is a great introduction to the playwright. So, by all means, bring the family and enjoy this fantastic production.

The Fairy King and Queen, Oberon and Titania always seem to be going at one another, so in an attempt to distract her, Oberon gives the mischievous Puck a potion to place upon her eyes that will cause her to fall in love with the first thing she encounters. At the same time, two pairs of young lovers enter the forest and one of them, Lysander, receives the potion instead, causing a great deal of confusion among them as a result. While this is occurring, the Rude Mechanicals are rehearing a play for a royal wedding in the forest as well, and Puck (or, in this case "Pucks", which I'll get to in a moment) has changed one of the actors heads into that of an ass. Since Titania has also received the potion by this point it only makes sense that she awakens and takes a shine to the newly transformed Nick Bottom. As Shakespeare himself writes in the play: "The course of true love never did run smooth", so you can imagine the chain of events that occur before things are straightened out.

This show features an absolutely splendid cast who do a fine job of creating these amusing and engaging characters. Timothy Carter and Nancy Anderson provide a feisty pairing as Oberon and Titania. Peter Winfrey (Demetrius), Cassia Thompson (Hermia), Justin Blanchard(Lysander), and Rachel Christopher (Helena) provide engaging portrayals of the young lovers whose couplings get crossed. Michael Propster (Peter Quince), Stephen Pilkington (Bottom), Jay Stadler (Flute), Jerry Vogel (Starveling), Reginald Pierre (Snout), and Allen Knoll (Snug) provide plenty of entertainment in their role as the Rude Mechanicals, and the play within a play that they perform, which is always a highlight, stands out here as well. In a cool and clever move, twins Austin Glen Jacobs and Ryan Alexander Jacobs deliver much amusement as the prankish Puck(s). Additional performances of note include: Paul Cereghino (Theseus), Jacqueline Thompson (Hippolyta), Ben Watts (Philostrate/Moth), Myke Andrews (Cobweb), Gabriel Diaz (PeaseBlossom), Raina Huston (Mustardseed), and the always welcome Whit Reichert (Egeus).

Director Rick Dildine utilizes a marvelous scenic design by Scott Neale, and a splendid cast to perfect effect for this fanciful woodland tale. Dottie Englis' gorgeous costumes, the evocative lighting of John Wyle, and the atmospheric sound design of Rusty Wandall all combine in brilliant fashion. Further enhancing the show are Peter Mark Kendall's original songs, as well as Matt Pace/Rat and People Orchestra who also composes and musically directs the production.

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, a thoroughly accessible classic, is given a wonderful treatment by Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, and it continues in Forest Park through June 26, 2016.

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From This Author Chris Gibson

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