For those of us who lived through the 1960s, the decade seems like an ever-appealing amalgam of innocence, drugs, and The Beatles. But for others, it probably just seems like an over-indulged period populated by overly self-centered boomers. That’s why the Great Lakes Theater Festival production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream can feel a bit too familiar and dog-eared.
The problem is not that this company did practically the same show (on the same set) seven years ago, nor is it because the Beatles’ songs don’t fit the dizzy romantic frolics in this light Shakespeare comedy. But once again rolling out the painted VW, the granny glasses and the short skirts just seems a tired attempt at freshening a show that can be plenty zesty all by itself.
Filled with fairies, love potions, and mistakenly mismatched lovers, Midsummer is a lively romp. And some of the right elements are in place here. Kevin Crouch swaggers with attitude as Lysander, who is in love with Hermia (an engaging Gisela Chipe). Dudley Swetland leads his band of rowdy craftsmen with punch and panache, and Aled Davies is just wry enough as Oberon, King of the Fairies.
But there are problems, most of which seem to stem from actors trying too hard to camp it up to please director Charles Fee. The usually reliable David Anthony Smith is an over-the-top caricature of a wacky amateur thespian as Bottom, the weaver who fancies himself a prodigious acting talent. And Eduardo Placer works his role as Puck so hard, channeling the intensity of Jim Morrison into this quick-witted elf, that he turns Puck into more of an OCD drone than an amusing and fun-filled sprite.
Meanwhile, Lina Chambers as Helena and Dane Agostinis as Demetrius never register sharp characters, floating through their scenes rather anonymously.
Even so, this play has suffered worse treatments and emerged victorious, and it does so here. Once the mechanicals take the stage in Act Two and present their play within a play, one can look past the Sgt. Pepper band outfits (yawn) and enjoy the evergreen genius of Shakespeare’s inspired discourse on love and magic.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Through May 15 at the Great Lakes
Theater Festival, Hanna Theater,
2067 E. 14th Street, 216-241-6000