SHAKESPEARE’S FANTASY FOREST WELCOMES YOU


        BONNIE GOLDBERG

To Shakespeare, if one pair of star-crossed lovers is good than two pairs must be even better. That is the comic premise on which his beloved “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” is based and you’re invited to join in the fun, frolic and family feud. The fact that “the course of true love never did run smooth” is being proven over and over.

The Duke of Athens (Andrew Spieker) is planning to marry Hippolyta (Lila Smith) and festivities are under way. But all is not happy in the land. In the forest of Arden outside Athens, mischief is afoot and Cupid is running amok, with delightfully different consequences in the Connecticut Free Shakespeare’s wonderful and magical new production of Will Shakespeare’s classic comedy of romance “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” through Sunday, August 11. McLevy Green on Broad Street in downtown Bridgeport has been transformed so that the trees are magenta, gold and aqua and welcome you, on blankets and beach chairs, with or without picnics, to a spectacular place where anything could happen.

Romantic triangles become complex geometric shapes as the Bard tangles the heartstrings in this involving tale of fairies and wood sprites and couples who think they are in love but are mistaken and couples who aren’t in love but are destined to be. Confused yet? The story spins along out of control once Oberon (Jonathan Holtzman), the King of the Fairies, decides to play a trick on his bride Titania (Saluda Camp) and urges his confederate Puck (Eric Brian Nyquist) to put drops of a flower potion in her eyes while she is sleeping. When she wakes, she will have a strong and powerful attachment, however unsuitable, for the first person or animal she sees -- in this case, a donkey- headed dunce named Bottom (Ian Eaton) who is thoroughly engaging in his role. Hee-haw!

Also loose in the dark woods are two sets of lovers from Athens, Hermia (Caitlin Chuckta) who thinks she loves Lysander (Mark Friedlander) and Demetrius (Brian Vaughan) who claims to adore Hermia too and poor Helena (Rebekah Dunn) who is gaga over Demetrius. True love never did run smooth in Shakespeare’s time because Hermia’s father Egeus (Matthew Catalano) not only forbids her to marry her choice, but orders her to a nunnery or to death if she disobeys. No wonder she runs off into the forest, with Lysander in chase, followed quickly by Demetrius and the fair Helena.

The merry chase continues in this nocturnal soup as the fate of a changeling child (Christopher McGoldrick) is questioned and an amateur acting troupe tries to perform a perfectly ridiculous tale of “Pyramus and Thisbe Meet a Lion.” The troupe of mechanicals, tradesman who are wannabee actors, include Bottom, as well as Uma Incrocci, Stephen Humes, Scott Redmond, Liliane Klein and Doug Plaut. The flurry of fairies include Julia Estrada, Sara Courtemanche, Annemarie Agbodji, Katie Sasso, Jamie Hernandez, Gwendolyn Niles and Lindalee Czarnecki. Alejandro Lopez plays the Master of the Revels. They are all wonderful in their roles, up and down the staircase set, including the littlest fairy only five years of age.

Performances are Thursday through Sunday at 8 p.m., outdoors under the stars. This is Connecticut Free Shakespeare's fourteenth season in Bridgeport and you may remember many fascinating productions at the Beardsley Park Zoo, with peacocks in attendance. This year they have moved to the grounds of the American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford for early performances. The performances are free, but donations are most welcome. Even the intermissions are filled with song and dance. If it rains, the show is cancelled. Call 203-916-8066 with questions.

Cupid is armed with love shafts that are tinged with flower power juice and go wildly astray in this heavily physical slapstick world created by the Bard centuries ago. Let Connecticut Free Shakespeare, under the whimsical artistic direction and adaptation of Ellen Lieberman and executive production of Bert Garskof, bring this outstanding production to your avid attention.



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