.60’s-inspired ‘Midsummer’ staged at Spreckels

When mounting a Shakespeare production, companies usually pick either a well-known adaptation or inject a “concept.”

Rohnert Park’s Spreckels Theater Company, however, has chosen to do both with its three-hour-long production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream…60’s Style! The result is a really good Shakespearean production that often seems to break out into a jukebox musical. The ambitious show runs through Feb. 25.

Don’t get me wrong; both shows are good. Co-directors Sheri Lee Miller and James Pelican have a firm grasp of the bard and have some of the county’s finest Shakespearean actors at work. Amongst the very strong cast, Taylor Diffenderfer’s Helena and John Browning’s Demetrius (hilarious in their haplessness), and Matt Cadigan’s Oberon (somehow simultaneously stoned and commanding) are of special note. Even the changeling child, played by the adorable Jacey Dae Covella, is engaging.

The same is true of the jukebox musical component. Under the musical direction of Jared Emerson-Johnson, Serene Elize Flores (Titania), Austin Aquino-Harrison (Hermia) and Noah Vondralee-Sternhill (Lysander) all give vibrant performances of some very familiar ’60s songs.

Using Titania’s fairies as backup singers is an inspired yet logical choice. However, it does necessitate that the fairies and mechanicals not be double cast (as they commonly are), which robs the play of a bit of its magic.

Only Alex Delzell’s performance as a flower-powered Puck felt fully grounded and at home in both worlds.

This visually striking set design by Eddy Hansen and Elizabeth Bazzano, costume design by Donnie Frank and lighting design by Eddy Hansen all strongly supported the blending of the production’s high-concept with the adaptation. Their work is actually close to brilliant.

The audience was invested, the cast and orchestra were talented, and the atmosphere was fun. But every time a song came up, the entire play stopped. The songs often broke the flow of the lines, which felt contradictory to the work being done by the actors, making me wonder why further script cuts were not made to keep the songs from repeating information already given and elongating the show’s run time.

To be fair (and in the spirit of full disclosure), Midsummer was the first show I appeared in (as a child), and 20 years later it was the last show in which I acted (both as Cobweb). It’s a play that holds deep and meaningful associations for me. It’s a play I thought held no more surprises.

Real Douglas fir and bay laurel trees on stage were a delightful surprise.

‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ runs through Feb. 25 at Spreckels Performing Arts Center, 5409 Snyder La., Rohnert Park. Fri-Sat, 7:30pm; Sun, 2pm; $16-$42. 707.588.3400. spreckelsonline.com.

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