A Midsummer Night's Dream | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

A Midsummer Night's Dream 

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Here's something you don't see in America very often: Shakespeare that makes sense. Directors Curt Columbus and Gavin Witt jam 28 University of Chicago students and 18 neighborhood kids into a rollickingly hip, unashamedly rough-edged, and wondrously clear A Midsummer Night's Dream, performed under the stars in the Reynolds Club courtyard. They update the play in an intriguing albeit piecemeal fashion--the Athenian courtiers are blue-blooded resort mavens, Oberon's spirit entourage are industrial club kids, Titania's fairy helpers are Victoria's Secret junkies, and the rude mechanicals are, well, let me get back to you on that. Nonetheless they manage to assemble a coherent, deeply felt story of amorous adolescent befuddlement and petty adult inflexibility. The amateur cast members put most professional companies to shame, keeping the show buoyant for three hours, understanding that they must play the text rather than revere it. As a result the show has the kind of joyful semiveracity that made the film Clueless so successful. Sure, the show's got a half dozen dead spaces large enough to house zeppelins (this is a student summer project, after all), and most of the text's deeper psychological significance is brushed aside. But if you want to see a 400-year-old play brought vibrantly to life (the final play-within-a-play is bladder-rupturingly funny), you could do a lot worse. Most of the year, in fact, you have no other choice. University of Chicago, Hutchinson Courtyard (or Mandel Hall in case of rain), 1131 E. 57th, 702-3414. August 15 through 17: Thursday-Saturday, 8 PM; festival seating for picnickers begins at 6:30 PM. $10 in advance; $12 at the door.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of cast of A Midsummer Night's Dream in a tree.

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