If you ask me…

- Tom Holehan

A Lively “Midsummer” Under the Stars

“Grease”, the much-produced 1950s rock and roll musical and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, the Shakespeare perennial (especially at this time of year), are both being offered al fresco this summer by the Summer Theatre of New Canaan and Connecticut Free Shakespeare. Pack your picnic basket and enjoy the night breezes...if not the productions!

There was life last week on the grounds of the woebegone American Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford where Director Ellen Lieberman continued her annual presentation of “accessible Shakespeare” this time with a fast and lively production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Shakespeare’s popular tale of mismatched lovers lost in a forest of fairies, sprites and changelings looks right at home on the theatre grounds with majestic tall trees framing the stage. The trees helped considerably as Doug Frawley’s bland scenic design doesn’t begin to suggest the enchanted forest required for the classic.

This is in-your-face, endlessly enthusiastic Shakespeare with enough good actors and high spirits in the large company to win over even those who still don’t quite “get” the Bard. Handsome Mark Friedlander makes for an appealingly love-struck Lysander matched well with the adorable Caitlin Chuckta as Hermia. Jonathan Holtzman’s Oberon and Saluda Camp’s Titania are both well-spoken who suggest the otherworldly without a lot of fuss and CFS regular Eric Nyquist is a ball of energy as the exuberant Puck. The clear crowd-pleaser of the evening, however, was Ian Eaton’s delightfully hammy Bottom. He probably gets away with more than the law should allow here, but the audience I sat with was not complaining.

“Pyramus and Thisbe”, the hilarious play-within-a-play that caps the production, goes on far too long but, again, the crowd would have probably enjoyed even more. There are also extended dance and song sequences that could have been trimmed and pity this poor company that doesn’t even get a rest at intermission as they lead group sing-alongs while passing buckets for donations. Frankly, I could have used a break from this fun but aggressive production, but there is no denying that Ms. Lieberman knows her audience very well.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” will continue at McLevy Green in Downtown Bridgeport through August 11.  For further information call 203.916.8066 or visit: www.ctfreeshakespeare.org.

Tom Holehan is one of the founders of the Connecticut Critics Circle, a frequent contributor to WPKN Radio’s “State of the Arts” program and Artistic Director of Stratford’s Square One Theatre Company. He welcomes comments at: tholehan@yahoo.com. His reviews and other theatre information can be found on the Connecticut Critics Circle website: www.ctcritics.org.


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