One would be hard pressed to find a better way to spend a Northwest summer evening than lounging in one of our local parks and enjoying a bit of delightful Shakespearian magic withthe Wooden O’s current outdoor production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I recently caught the show at the Luther Burbank Park’s venue on Mercer Island as the Seattle Shakespeare troupe set up in a leafy glen, sharing their work with a variety of birds flying above and groups of somewhat flummoxed joggers accidentally coming upon the outskirts of the action. Artistic director George Mount is at the helm here, directing a solid cast of eight actors and a number of life sized puppets, piecing together a highly accessible version of Shakespeare’s wacky love story.
Highlights of the cast include a feisty Beth Pollack playing the strong-willed Athenian Hermia, who is determined to hold on to her befuddled lover Lysander at any cost; and Sophia Franzella portraying the bumbling wannabe stage star Bottom. Franzella’s physical depiction of Bottom literally becoming an ass is a show-stopping riot!
Mount seems to have set up a solid platform for the actors to work within while allowing a bit of free rein for imaginative bits of improvisation and physical buffoonery. The approach makes for an enthusiastic cast that seems to be having a ball throughout the swiftly moving production.
The aforementioned puppets handle the depiction of the play’s fairies and spirits; an approach that emphasizes the playful fantasy of the action that takes place, once the characters have made their way to the woods outside of Athens. At first it may seem too much of a task to allot the important role of Puck to a puppet, but cast member Rico Lastrapes acting as puppeteer, is remarkably adept at bringing the mischievous imp alive.
The troupe takes the show to a riotous conclusion when the earnest but mostly talentless band of blue collar workers present their play within a play to celebrate the marriages of the now solidly united Athenian lovers. Particularly moving was a moment of genuine pathos inserted in the hilarity of the closing scene when Calder Jameson Shilling, as Flute the bellows mender, discovers the intense satisfaction of portraying powerful feelings when working as an actor.
Finally, the audience is sent back out into the park with devious Puck’s declaration that what we witnessed is “No more yielding but a dream.” But what a pleasant summer dream it is! The fun continues at a variety of local parks through August 7. For more information go to seattleshakespeare.org.