A Midsummer Night's Dream/Short Shakespeare! "A Midsummer Night's Dream" | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

A Midsummer Night's Dream/Short Shakespeare! "A Midsummer Night's Dream" 

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A Midsummer Night's Dream, Will Act for Food, at WNEP Theater and Short Shakespeare! "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Shakespeare's craziest comedy can take a directorial licking and keep on ticking, as both of these productions prove.

Will Act for Food director Daniel Shea reimagines the play as a Twilight Zone episode, with Micah Bernier as Rod Serling as Puck--darkly ruminating through clouds of cigarette smoke about "what fools these mortals be" and "how quick bright things come to confusion"--and a set by Robb Rabito that references the spinning hypnotic wheel from the TV show's opening credits. The performers tend to jump each other's lines, emphasize the wrong parts of the verses, and emote with uniform intensity throughout, and every appearance of Bernier's chain-smoking Puck burns a black hole in the narrative. Fortunately, Shea's light, lyrical staging remains true to the play's poetry and comedy, sustaining enough of its spirit to redeem the production (besides, these good people are helping to feed the hungry and will accept nonperishable food items as partial payment for admission).

Gary Griffin's 75-minute condensation of the play for Chicago Shakespeare Theater is as up-to-date as a rap soliloquy and brimming with playful anachronisms: Puck takes messages from Oberon on his beeper, directs his spells with a TV remote, and documents his mischief with a flash camera. Most importantly, there's enough good acting from the principals to offset the parodically bad acting of the Pyramus-and-Thisbe play-within-the-play, which is cheerfully punctuated by drummer Bob Garrett. Michelle Hensley's Hermia is working through body-image issues, Sean Fortunato finds comic depths in Bottom, Felicia P. Fields belts out the blues as Wall, and Brian Hamman is smoke-free and appropriately mercurial as Puck.

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