Friday, June 17, 2016

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM • Shakespeare Festival St. Louis

Royal nuptials, a romantic mis-match, an amateur theatre troupe, and a band of mischievous fairies in an enchanted wood. What could happen, right? You’ll find out in Shakespeare Festival St. Louis’s delightful production of one of the Bard’s most accessible comedies, happening now in Forest Park, and it’s got all of the elements to entertain folks of all ages.

The action is connected through the imminent wedding of Duke Theseus of Athens (Paul Cereghino) and Amazonian Queen, Hippolyta (Jacqueline Thompson), along with a pair of mixed up kids in love. And not in love. Hermia loves Lysander, but an arrangement has already been made promising her to Demetrius. Hermia couldn’t care less about Demetrius, but her bff Helena has eyes only for him. What a hot mess.

Meanwhile in the woods outside Athens, the King and Queen of the fairies, Oberon (Timothy Carter) and Titania (Nancy Anderson) are having a little spat of their own.
 Oberon (Timothy Carter)
and Titania (Nancy Anderson).
Photo credit: J. David Levy
To get some revenge, Oberon sends his “knavish sprite" Puck, here played by twins, Austin Glen Jacobs and Ryan Alexander Jacobs, off on a quest. Puck’s mission is to find a flower called love-in-idleness and apply the nectar of it to the eyelids of a sleeping Titania, that will cause her to fall for the first creature she sees when she wakes up. Having overheard the plight of the pair of lovers, Oberon also instructs Puck to give them a helping hand with a little love juice for Demetrius as well to smooth things out. Then we have our crew of actors, also in the woods, rehearsing a play for the royal wedding of the Duke and the Queen. Not only does Puck apply the juice of the flower to the wrong guy, he also goes rogue and transforms the head of Bottom (Stephen Pilkington), the most ardent of the actors, into the head of a donkey. Hilarity ensues.

There’s a nifty illustrated guide provided by the Post-Dispatch that lays everything out here -- it’s also posted near the entrance of Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park, where SFSL’s plays are performed.

Artistic and executive director of Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, Rick Dildine, also directs the play, written sometime between 1590 and 1597, and keeps all of the action of this delectable comedy dancing along at a nice clip and easy to follow. The production features an agile cast, with Rachel Christopher as Helena and Cassia Thompson as Hermia providing a great dose of physical comedy.
Oberon (top/Timothy Carter), Lysander (Justin Blanchard),
Demetrius (Peter Winfrey), Hermia (Cassia Thompson)
and Helena (Rachel Christopher).
Photo credit: J. David Levy
The charismatic Carter and Anderson as Oberon and Titania are also standouts. Scott Neale’s multi-leveled set of doors, lamps and trees, set off with beautiful lighting design by John Wylie and Rusty Wandall’s sound design, make this an evening not to be missed, not to mention striking costumes by Dottie Englis and original scoring by Brien Seyle and Matt Pace, and songs by Peter Mark Kendall. Grab your blankets, stock up your picnic baskets, and head to the park!


Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Rick Dildine
Shakespeare Glen, Forest Park
through June 26 | tickets: FREE; Premium seating: $20
Performances nightly at 8pm, except Tuesdays; 6:30pm Green Show

The fairies begin to tie up Bottom (Stephen Pilkington)
after Titania (Nancy Anderson) falls in love with him.
Photo credit: J. David Levy
Titania: Nancy Anderson*
Cobweb: Myke Andrews
Lysander: Justin Blanchard*
Oberon: Timothy Carter*
Theseus: Paul Cereghino
Helena: Rachel Christopher*
Peaseblossom: Gabriela Diaz
Mustardseed: Raina Houston
Puck: Austin Glen Jacobs
Puck: Ryan Alexander Jacobs
Snug/Lion: Alan Knoll*
Snout/Wall: Reginald Pierre
Bottom: Stephen Pilkington*
Peter Quince: Michael Propster*
Egeus: Whit Reichert*
Flute/Thisby: Jay Stalder
Hermia: Cassia Thompson
Hippolyta: Jacqueline Thompson
Starvling: Jerry Vogel*
Philostrate/Moth: Ben Watts
Demetrius: Peter Winfrey

Puck (Ryan Jacobs).
Photo credit: J. David Levy
Scenic Designer: Scott Neale
Costume Designer: Dottie Englis
Lighting Designer: John Wylie
Sound Design: Rusty Wandall
Original Score, Composer: Brien Seyle/Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra
Original Score, Music Director: Matt Pace/Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra
Original Songs: Peter Mark Kendall
Voice and Text Coach: Suzanne Mills

* Denotes member of Actors’ Equity Association, the Union of
Professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States

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