Monday, July 28, 2014

A Midsummer Saturday Night's Fever Dream (A Review)

My summer of Shakespeare continued this week with a live mashup by the Troubadors. The Troubies, as they are affectionately known, performed A Midsummer Saturday Night's Fever Dream at what has quickly become a favorite spot for me, the Garden Grove Amphitheater. It was an energetic mashup that had most of us dancing many times, swaying, singing, and clapping at others. In other words, it is the kind of live entertainment that makes enjoyable memories of hot and humid summer evenings. I even learned some things about Saturday Night Fever that I had not realized before.

I was hooked from the moment we started singing wa wa to Peter Frampton's Show Me the Way! It was well into the 1980s when I first heard the legendary player but Frampton's guitar once heard was unforgettable. The guitarist this time though was a beautiful woman in a cocky red hat. Oh, how I coveted that hat! And, she (Linda Taylor?) was very good, pretty amazing. This show was a mashup in the best traditions: Elizabethan and contemporary literature, pop culture, costume design, humor, and music coming together, pleasing all my senses. A celebration of dram and disco. Incomparable.

My favorite Bee Gees songs were interspersed among the classic text of Shakespeare's beloved play with magic and fairies, acrobatic feats, disco dances and weddings with new and hilarious twists: Boogie Shoes, How Deep Is Your Love, Night Fever, Staying Alive, More Than A Woman, If I Can't Have You, Jive Talking, You Should Be Dancing, plus of course the disco version of The Fifth of Beethoven. Helena was nerdy, and innocently appealing while Demetrius in his disco suit was reminiscent of John Travolta and Hermia was quite earthy. I had forgotten that parts of the original SNF movie had disturbed and baffled me. I had not understand them. Both these pieces, Midsummer Night's Dream and Saturday Night Fever, have deep themes, symbols and motifs that recur often beneath their light-hearted and frivolous facades. Out of balance love is explored in Dream while in Fever escape from the city, the boring humdrum working life is one of at least two main themes (the second theme is also one that bewildered me - call me naive - when I first watched the movie, but it didn't really figure in the Troubies' mashup and so I won't do more than mention it here briefly: Is it possible for a man to have a platonic relationship with a woman? My answer is yes, of course, duh!). There are obvious parallel relationships of course: Annette asking Tony in SNF "why do you hate me when I love you so" is evocative of Helena's love for Demetrius. And less obvious ones: we think now that this play of Shakespeare's may have been to celebrate an aristocratic wedding while the movie renders a classical Beethoven piece in a symphonic disco beat!

In the end, it is the dreams - that dreamlike and escapist quality - in the play and the film that captivate me. Self-confident Bottom's dream is touching and immortal (don't miss the Pauline-like quality embedded within):
I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream past the wit of man to say what dream it was. Man is but an ass if he go about t’expound this dream. Methought I was—there is no man can tell what. Methought I was, and methought I had—but man is but a patched fool if he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of this dream. It shall be called ‘Bottom’s Dream’, because it hath no bottom
Contrast this with working class, sexist Tony who begins in Saturday Night Fever with no ambition whatsoever beyond the disco. But he can dance and he grows, no longer sexist at least. In the end, his dreams and mine collide leaving me wondering, what exactly did I see? Isn't this the magic of show business to make us wonder: What exactly did we see? We come away our imaginations fired up, few words to articulate the wonders we have seen and still often continue to see inside our heads, in our minds, and in our own dreams.

There was one kid in the audience who was under ten years old. I probably would not bring my children to this show but the occasional off-color humor (e.g. moon butt) can be overlooked among the music, costumes, acrobatics, and magic of these timeless pieces. Enjoy!

More information:

The Troubies are scheduled to play in south county laguna Playhouse in August. Check here for details:

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