“Oh, what fools these mortal’s be!”
“The course of true love never did run smooth.”
“Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind.”
There are a lot of great lines in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but one of my favorites comes close to the end. It’s a theater review, of sorts. Having just witnessed a wacky performance by a band of over-excited tradesmen turned actors, the stern Duke Theseus quiets his nitpicky entourage with the words, “Nothing can be amiss when simpleness and duty tender it.”
In other words, when some is simply done, with great love, it’s just not fair to judge it too harshly.
That’s a lovely thought, and one that certainly applies to Pegasus Theater’s rambunctious and unruly staging of the Bard’s most popular comedy.
On the Sunday I saw it, some of the cast’s performances were a bit, um, ragged, with lines blown or stumbled over. Parts of the action are blocked in ways that make it hard to see from certain places in the audience. Also, the original text has been cut-apart, reduced and re-written, adding new lines like “Everything will be okay!” alongside Shakespeare’s indelible poetry.
Personally, I think if you don’t want to try and make Shakespeare’s words work, then you should have done a different play. Cut a few of Shakespeare’s lines if you have to, but don’t rewrite let, unless your new lines are, you know, brilliant.
Okay, that’s my pet peeve.
Anyway, in the Pegasus production, it hardly matters, because the whole thing is so amiably and passionately presented, done with such a disarmingly life-and-love affirming spirit, whatever quibbles I had while watching it quickly sank into the sun-dappled river in front of which the show is presented, outdoors, under a bridge, the simple set draped in late afternoon light and shadow.
As directed by Beulah Vega, this Midsummer Night’s Dream is clearly a lusty love offering to the river community of Guerneville and the surrounding areas. For one thing, the show is free—well, donations are accepted, and cushy seats are one of the perks available to those donating on the company’s Indiegogo site. Aside from being a literal gift to its audiences, the whole production shouts aloud the joys and pleasures of love.
In this version, the four Athenian lovers, originally written as two men and two women, are all women—Crystal Carpenter, Jessica Anderson, Elaine Koslowski, and Alexis Christenson—and the idea of them pairing up and getting married doesn’t cause anyone in Athens to bat an eye.
The woodland fairies, ruled by King Oberon (Peter Rogers) and Queen Titania (Elizabeth Henry) with the help of the playful Puck (Jake Hamlin), have a lot of fun with the word “fairy,” and are about as sex-positive a group as one could imagine.
Adding to the positives, is Nick Christensen, who as the blundering would be actor Bottom, frequently steals the show, with or without the fluffy donkey head Puck magically gives him.
There is enough kissing, groping, fondling, and stroking in the show to raise anyone’s pulse rate, the audience is encouraged to shout out their own improvisations, and the clever use of Pink Floyd’s The Wall—the actual vinyl album—gets one of the show’s biggest laughs. If you are in love with love, there’s plenty to like in this sexy, silly, entertainingly bubbly Midsummer.
‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ runs Friday-Sunday through August 31 at Riverkeeper Park, near Sonoma Nesting Company. All shows at 6:00 pm. Donations accepted. Bring a cushion because the seats are concrete. Reservations recommended through pegasustheater.com
I’m David Templeton, Second Row Center, for KRCB