By Bonnie Goldberg

What fools we mere mortals be in the intricate game of love.  For a delightful lesson from the Bard, the literary Cupid who controls all the strings, in the rules and philosophy of the art, look no further than Connecticut Free Shakespeare’s tenth anniversary production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” It is being magically performed outdoors at Bridgeport’s Beardsley Zoo evenings until Saturday, August 1 before being transported to Guilford’s historic Green from Wednesday, August 5 to Sunday, August 9.

Frolic in the woods outside the ancient city of Athens as Lysander (Mark Friedlander) and Hermia (Erin Scanlon) run off to elope because the Duke (Andrew Spieker) has listened to Hermia’s father (Ray Baldelli) and decreed that she either marry Demetrius (Tim Shelton), her father’s choice, enter a nunnery or die.  So much for deal or no deal.

To add another layer of confusion to the star-crossed lovers theme, Hermia’s best friend Helena (Abbie Killeen) is pining away for Demetrius.  When she tells Demetrius of the elopement plans, they too dash off into the enchanted woods.   There fairies and sprites abound as well as Oberon (Charles Maceo) and his queen Titania (Saluda Camp) who are experiencing romance problems of their own.

To teach Titania a lesson, Oberon instructs his chief mischief maker Puck (Marissa Lichwick) to play Cupid and dart around dropping love potions into her eyes and those of all the citizens of Athens who are running around in circles in the forest.

Confusion reigns when the recipients of those potions awake and fall in love with the first person they see:  unluckily for Titania it’s Nick Bottom (Ian Eaton), part of a roving acting troupe, who has been transformed into a donkey. As the lovers run amok, in a delightful physical comedy routine that is heavenly fun to watch, the amateur thespians stage “Pyramus and Thisbe Meet a Lion” for the duke’s pleasure on his wedding day.

Ellen Lieberman stages this wonderful classic comedy under the stars.  The performance is free but donations are most welcome.  Celebrity guest stars are featured nightly as are the peacocks that proudly roam the zoo grounds.

Performances are at Bridgeport’s Beardsley Zoo on Noble Avenue tonight through Saturday, August 1 at 8 p.m., with picnicking at 6:30 p.m.  Bring your own blankets and chairs and bug spray as needed.  The concession stand will be open.  Performances will continue on the Guilford Green from Wednesday-Saturday, August 5-9 at 7:30 p.m.  For information, call 203-393-3213 or online at www.ctfreeshakespeare.org. ; Shows are cancelled if the weather is inclement.

Founded in 1999, Connecticut Free Shakespeare is a professional educational theater project that produces one major production each summer, free of charge, and is committed to encouraging Shakespeare’s plays.  Local teenagers are eligible for extensive internships in the theater arts.

Watch Cupid and his errant arrows of affection prove once again that “the course of true love never did run smooth.”

This review appeared in the Middletown Press.

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