(from left) Paul James as Oberon and Christopher Michael Rivera as Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Photo by Rich Soublet II.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The Old Globe, San Diego

Written by:
Josh Baxt
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A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a strange combination of light humor and menace. The play is about love, and all the silliness that can accompany it, but it also renders some darker tones. The Globe delivers on both.

The show starts on the dark side. Egeus (Victor Morris) is pissed his daughter Hermia (Jamie Ann Romero) wants to marry Lysander (Bernadette Sefic). Egeus prefers Demetrius (Jeffrey Rashad). Lysander is a woman in this production, making it an even more contemporary conflict.

Egeus wants Athenian King Theseus (Brett Cassidy) to intervene, which he does. Hermia is given the choice between Demetrius, celibacy or death. Patriarchy at its least nuanced.

Hermia and Lysander run away to the woods, but Hermia’s frenemy Helena (Celeste Arias) is in love with Demetrius and tells him where the two went. She chases him as he chases them. Meanwhile, a group of craftsmen are rehearsing a play (Pyramus and Thisbe) for Theseus’ and Hippolyta’s (Camilla Leonard) upcoming nuptials. Naturally, they rehearse in the woods.

But there are mischievous fairies in the woods. Oberon (understudy Jude Tibeau), king of the fairies, is in a tiff with Queen Titania (Karen Aldridge) and enlists Puck (Christopher Michael Rivera) to use a love potion on Titania to extract his revenge. He also notices how Demetrius treats Helena, and orders Puck to douse him with the potion as well. Hijinx ensue.

The fairies are meant to be creepy but Titania and her retinue are downright terrifying. Oberon and Puck, on the other hand, are silly and not entirely competent. The same could be said of the craftsmen/actors, who muddle through both rehearsal and performance.

The preparation for, and performance of, Pyramus and Thisbe are filled with references: Hamlet, Monty Python, Say Anything, the original Planet of the Apes. Quince (Becca Lustgarten) and Bottom (Jake Millgard) steal both shows, and credit Brett Cassidy for endowing Theseus with the delight and wonder of a four-year-old watching a puppet show.

The costumes range from marshal Athenian garb to the fairy’s Afrofuturist outfits. The play is overseen by DJ Miki Vale, who mostly spins tunes from the 80s and occasionally provides some quick narration in verse.

Between the costumes, music and dreamy set, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a sensory treat. The Globe had a lot of fun with this production, and you should too.

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