A Midsummer Night’s Dream is always a popular play to present in Shakespeare Festivals. At La Jolla Playhouse, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is magical, thanks to the creative team of Christopher Ashley, director, Mark Bennett, composer, Neil Patel, set designer, David C. Woolard, costume designer, Howell Binkley, lighting designer, Eric Stern, music director and conductor, Leon Rothenberg, sound designer, Andrew Pacho, choreographer, and the marvelous Basil Twist as the puppet designer. Added to this is an orchestra of 20 plus playing the great score of Felix Mendelssohn intertwined with original music by Bennett, a Broadway composer and frequent collaborator with director Ashley.
I must say that this is the first Dream that has really created a different world, full of magic, and marvels, This is helped by the topsy- turvy set design by Patel, which turns itself on edge and features an upside-down piano which a fairy, on wires, plays. Add to this some of the puppetry by Twist and the illusion is complete. The setting is quite simple, an elegant drawing room that transforms into the forest. A variety of old streetlights are the main props and help define the trees, Titania’s Bower, etcetera.
Unfortunately, the acting company was not as magical. For some reason Ashley has made the lovers much older than what is usual, a choice which tilts the whole story for no apparent reason. The cast members included Amelia Campbell as a funny Hermia, Tim Hopper as Demetrius, and Lucas Caleb Rooney as a rather boring Bottom, only outdone by the Oberon of Daniel Oreskes who was very contemporary. J. Smith Cameron was a delightful Helena, and Jonathan McMurtry played Egeus and showed us how it all should be done. Charlene Woodard played Titania and was the only cast member who was magical in and of herself. She gave a wonderful performance.
As for the mechanicals, they fell flat in my estimation. Nevertheless I went home singing the scenery and rejoicing in Woodard’s performance. A Midsummer Night’s Dream will play at the La Jolla Playhouse until Aug. 22.
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