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, First Folio Shakespeare Festival. There's something delightful about seeing a production of Shakespeare's woodsy fantasia outdoors, with crickets and birds singing accompaniment. Set in Athens, Illinois, in 1952, this staging by Michael Goldberg is casually playful, bawdy, and full of fun. The actors wander through the audience, pausing sometimes to swipe a nibble from someone's picnic, and the 1950s setting makes sense given the story, especially when the young women worry about their virginity.

The emphasis here, though, is not on the two young couples--of the four actors who play them, only the sharp-edged Marrakesh Glasspool Frugia as Helena comes across as anything but a milquetoast. Instead Goldberg focuses on the gamboling Oberon (Nick Sandys) and Puck (a wry Kevin McKillip, similarly wonderful as Hamlet at First Folio earlier this summer). The fairy scenes are set at a carnival, where Oberon is the domineering ringmaster and Puck a lusty, mischievous clown complete with red nose. In the cleverest touch, the rude mechanicals are mechanics--in their first scene they work on a car while singing delicious doo-wop (composed by Henry Marsh). Their ribald ad-libs--anachronistic for Shakespeare's time if not the 50s--add to the show's air of cheerful enchantment.

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