Friday, July 4, 2014

A Midsummer Night's Dream (A Review)

Summer has finally and officially begun for me, thanks to a good friend and a loving family. On Thursday evening my Summer of 2014 fun was launched with a most unusual production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. This is one of Shakespeare's most beloved comedies filled with lovers, fairies and fools. I enjoyed it at the Festival Amphitheater, Garden Grove. It was produced by Shakespeare Orange County (SOC) in conjunction with the world famous and award-winning Polynesian dance group Hita O Te Ra. When I looked at the program I couldn't help but wonder, is it a play, a musical, a dance?

It is an unusual production because the play is set in 1700 Polynesia. Other than that nothing else was changed. They stayed true to the original Shakespeare script and kept the names of all the characters the same. I found it to a rich and provocative feast, imagination inspiring and absolutely, sweetly enjoyable. About 10 dances by the troupe of ~60 dancers - Polynesians, Maoris, Tahitians, Filippinos, Hawaiians, Samoans and Micronesians - along with musicians including Tahitian drummers, were sumptuous interludes to the witty and fast-moving comedy. The dances also told unique stories. SOC and Hita O Te Ra's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream is a Shakespearean play punctuated with music and dances that increase our awareness of the cultures of a whole range of the Pacific (Asian) Islands.

I am normally not a fan of Polynesian dance (or any of its variations) but I enjoyed the extravagant show and drama filled with many beautiful dances. The costumes were colorful, the women graceful, the men incredibly slender and strong, the dances spectacular and the stories they told strangely new and yet comfortingly universal and familiar.  Listening to the dearly beloved characters - Duke of Athens Theseus and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, Oberon and Titania (King and Queen of the Fairies), Robin Goodfellow/Puck, the lovers Lysander and Hermia, Demetrius and Helena, the fairies PeaseBlossom, Cobweb, and Mustard Seed, and of course the hilarious drama of Bottom who plays Pyramus and his Thisbe - all speaking the original words stirred memories of the forgotten magical life of study and play from my now long ago college days.

"I am that merry wanderer of the night" (Puck);

"Ill met by moonlight, Proud Titania" (Oberon to his besotted queen);

"my heart is true as steel" (Helena describing her love for Demetrius who loves Hermia);

"a lion among ladies is a most dreadful thing" (Bottom's comment the problem posed by the lion in their play for the wedding of the Duke and the Queen);

"here come the lovers full of joy and mirth" (Theseus) and

"To show our simple skill, That is the true beginning of our end." (Quince's prologue to the play they are presenting to the Duke and his guests.

Best of all are Theseus's comments, my favorite lines about the poet, the lover and the lunatic, about the power of imagination which gives to "airy nothing" a form, and "a name" bringing joy to the author-creator and the reader. 
The lunatic, the lover and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is, the madman: the lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt:
The poet's eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
 A local habitation and a name.
 Such tricks hath strong imagination,
 That if it would but apprehend some joy,
 It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
 Or in the night, imagining some fear,
 How easy is a bush supposed a bear!
I highly recommend this production for all adults and families too. The SOC is having its first children's camp and so yesterday, the little kids from the camp were there dressed as fairies. It was pure sweetness to watch them join in the last dance and song.

The Festival Amphitheater is an intimate little theater with comfortable seats. It is located in Euclid Park: 12762 Main St. Garden Grove, CA 92840. Parking was plentiful and free. My friend and I came early and caught up with each other on the green Euclid park. The Shakespeare Orange County - Summerfest Orange County A Midsummer Night's Dream run is from June 21st until July 19th. Due to its popularity two extra dates have been added: July 31 and August 1st. Showtime is 8 pm.

For the last few weeks, my family and I have been calling my life "endless summer." The writer in me, has naturally been trying to capture the halcyon days and encapsulated dreams of mystery and magic in written words. Well, Thursday evening's midsummer dream was followed today by a picture perfect celebration of July 4th. A family barbecue in the Garden of Grace. I am blessed.


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