A Midsummer Night's Dream | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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A Midsummer Night's Dream


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A Midsummer Night's Dream, Festival Theatre. The "midsummer" and "night" parts are just right in this open-air Oak Park production, which teems with fireflies that might pass for otherworldly creatures. It's the "dream" side, the product of Shakespeare's poetry, that's deficient in this slapdash remount. Rather than resolve the comedy's divergent worlds of manipulative fairies, mismatched lovers, rough mechanicals, and silver-tongued heroes, directors Peter Toran and Dale Calandra put them further asunder. Toting gigantic parasols for no particular reason, flower children Titania and Oberon clash both with the Elizabethan clowns doing "Pyramus and Thisbe" and with the Athenian lovers, who look lost in ways the Bard didn't intend. Chris Heuther's intrusive sound design is every bit as erratic as the characters and their eras.

The one consistency, inevitable among actors unsure of their text, is a habit of pouncing on words rather than treating the line as a lyric. Along with a spotty sound system, this heavy-handedness ravages the gorgeous language. The exceptions are Jack Hickey as Bottom, always on top of his transformations, and Tom Taylor as the magisterial Oberon. The rotund Calandra, cast against type as Puck, seldom gets laughs though he keeps changing accents and slapping his head. It doesn't help that the play has been cut to less than two hours--as if the plot, not the poetry, were the point.

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