A Midsummer Night’s Dream Review – A Fairy Tale Comes to Topanga

Melora Marshall and Aarush Mehta (Changeling Child) with Alexandra Kunin, Jordan Tyler Kessler, Grace Hawthorn, and Leesa Kim in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM - Photo by Ian Flanders
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William Shakespeare would surely have adored the Theatricum Botanicum’s latest production of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM. After 48 years of practice, they finally got it more than right! A perennial favorite at the outdoor theater, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM is a charming take on Shakespeare’s tale of love, marriage, and a fairyland of sprites ruled by the incomparable Oberon and Titania. This is a production which has had time to mellow and evolve over the years since its first presentation at Will Geer’s little theater in a natural canyon. This year’s take on the story features some changes, including more music and song. Shakespeare’s text has been set to original music by Ellen Geer with instrumentation and additional music by Marshall McDaniel. The gentle lyrics seem so right as they waft through the rustling leaves.

Thad Geer (center) with fairies – Photo by Ian Flanders

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM is actually three different stories blended with the enchantment of the fairy kingdom. Bottom (Thad Geer) and his pals provide comic relief as they prepare to perform for the royal wedding of Duke Theseus (Jose Donado) and his Amazon bride Hippolyta (Oyemen Ehikhamhen). Meanwhile, lovers Hermia (Julia Lisa) and Lysander (Joey Major) flee Hermia’s father, who demands that she marry Demetrius (Ethan Haslam) – a man who just can’t get rid of love-struck Helena (Sara Mountjoy-Pepka), a woman who never gives up. As the quartet stumble through a strange forest inhabited by invisible denizens of the night, fairy king Oberon (Lisa Wolpe) and fairy queen Tatiana (Melora Marshall, who also directs the epic) quibble and quarrel over the fate of a changeling child (Aarush Mehta) each wants for her own. Enter fairyland funster Puck (Terrence Wayne, Jr.) who tries to make it all right with disastrous – and very funny – results.

Joey Major and Julia Lisa – Photo by Ian Flanders

This 80-minute version of Shakespeare’s classic captures the otherworldly enchantment of dreams emanating from summer songs with accuracy and acumen. While faithful to the spirit of Shakespeare, the play is also fashioned to appeal to the current audience of all ages. Gone are obscure references to people and places familiar to everyone born in the sixteenth century. With a breath of fresh air, A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM offers a rich experience tailored to today’s viewers.

Sara Mountjoy-Pepka and Ethan Haslam – Photo by Ian Flanders

Kudos to director Melora Marshall, who almost floats above the ground as she portrays the fairy queen with human foibles. The entire very large cast massages every sigh – and every chuckle – in the bewitching play. Choreographer Max Lawrence has fun gracefully moving the cast around the forested hillside, while costumer Beth Eslick makes sure that each outfit is perfect for the moment. Sound designers Marshall McDaniel and Grant Escandon and lighting designer Zachary Moore add just the perfect soupcon of elegance to this captivating production.

Sky Wahl, Earnestine Phillips, Jacob Salazar, Ted Elrick, Elias Wygodny, and Thad Geer – Photo by Ian Flanders

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM runs through 11/7/21 with performances at on Friday at 7:30 p.m. (8/13/21), on Saturday at 4 p.m. (10/2/21) and 7:30 p.m. (7/17/21, 8/21/21), and on Sunday at 4 p.m. (7/11/21, 7/25/21, 8/29/21, 9/5/21, 9/19/21, 10/10/21, 10/17/21, 10/24/21, and 11/7/21) and 7:30 p.m. (8/1/21, 8/8/21, 9/12/21, 9/26/21). Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, CA 90290. Tickets range from $26 to $60 for premium seating. Seniors, students, military veterans, teachers, and AEA members pay $25 and $15. Children 5-15 are $10, and children under 4 are free. Friday night performances are Pay-What-You-Will. For information and reservations, call 310-455-3723 or go online.