Midsummer Night’s Dream sparkles under the stars
by Jim Spencer & Shirley Lorraine
The Kingsmen Shakespeare Company is celebrating its twentieth anniversary of presenting quality productions on the main lawn of California Lutheran University. The final show of the 2016 season takes the professional company full circle with a re-staging its inaugural production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
This time the comedy is under the skillful and creative direction of Brett Elliot, one the original lead actors in the first production. In fact, both the cast and crew boast other numerous long-time and returning Kingsmen players, as well as welcoming new actors and workers.
Shakespeare’s classic romantic tale about of four sets of lovers is brought to full-figured life with abundant visual appeal, strong characterizations and both high and low comedy.
The Kingsmen Company delights in treating audiences to Shakespeare’s poetry by setting the productions in other eras or genres, displaying to good measure the full genius of the text. For this production director Elliot has chosen India as the background for the action, which works exceptionally well.
Bathed in the light of a full moon on opening night, the lush scenery, the rich and colorful costumes and the mystical qualities of the whimsical story are entrancing throughout.
There is a bit of action for everyone – swooning maidens, handsome men, sprites, goblins and a cadre of fanciful, flighty fairies flitting about a man turned into an ass fill the stage. Oh, and to fill out the story there are some regular people, too.
The professional players in the key roles are all outstanding – Ross Hellwig as Demetrius, Angela Gulner as Hermia, Samantha Eggers as Helena and Seta Wainingolo as Lysander all turn in superb performances.
They are easily matched by Nawal Bengholam as the Fairy Queen Titania, Ty Mayberry as the commanding Oberon, Jason Rennie as the mischievous Puck, and Kingsmen veteran Marc Silver as the self-confident actor Bottom. Too numerous to mention, the entire cast adds to the magic.
Enhanced lighting and sound systems enable the visual and the vocal efforts to be clear, engaging and easily understood – a quality essential to understanding Shakespeare and sadly lacking in many attempts by less qualified companies. The individual contributions of the director and seasoned performers give the entire production an uncommon depth, dimension and vitality.
Continuing its policy of free admission for anyone under the age of 18, the Kingsmen Company and its stellar production values bring the beauty of the Bard to new and seasoned generations alike. This production is an open invitation that should not be missed to expose students of all ages to Shakespeare.
Additional merriment and education takes place before the show begins. So, arriving early is recommended to take full advantage of the festival’s offerings.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays through July 31 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings. Gates open at 5:30 for festival seating. Main show at 8:00 p.m. Bring your low-backed chairs, picnics and jackets, as the evening cools down after dark. Tickets (over 18) are $20. Lawn boxes and regular seats slightly higher. For details and more information www.kingsmenshakespeare.org.