There’s a great line toward the end of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. Having just witnessed a wacky performance by a band of overexcited tradesmen turned actors, Duke Theseus quiets his entourage with the words, “Nothing can be amiss when simpleness and duty tender it.”
It’s a lovely thought—a theater review of sorts—and one that certainly applies to Pegasus Theater’s rambunctious staging of Shakespeare’s most popular comedy at Riverkeeper Stewardship Park in Guerneville, near the banks of the Russian River. On the Sunday I saw it, some performances were a bit ragged. Parts of the action are blocked in ways that make it hard to see. And the original text has been cut apart, reduced and rewritten, adding new lines like “Everything will be OK!” alongside Shakespeare’s indelible poetry.
But the whole thing is done with such a life- and love-affirming spirit, that whatever quibbles I had soon sank into the sun-dappled river in front of which the show is presented, the simple set draped in late afternoon light and shadow.
As directed by Beulah Vega, this Midsummer is a lusty love offering to the river community. Not only is the show free (donations are accepted), the whole production shouts aloud the joys and pleasures of love.
In this version, the four Athenian lovers, originally written as two men and two women, are all women (Crystal Carpenter, Jessica Anderson, Elaine Kozlowski and Alexis Christenson), and the idea of them pairing up and getting married doesn’t cause anyone in Athens to bat an eye. The fairies, ruled by King Oberon (Peter Rogers) and Queen Titania (Elizabeth Henry), with the help of the playful Puck (Jake Hamlin), have a lot of fun with the word “fairy,” and are about as sex-positive a group as one could imagine.
As the blundering would-be actor Bottom, Nick Christensen frequently steals the show, with or without the fluffy donkey head Puck magically gives him. There is enough kissing, groping, fondling and stroking in the show to raise anyone’s pulse rate—and the audience is encouraged to shout out their own improvisations. Clever use of Pink Floyd’s
The Wall—the actual vinyl album—gets one of the show’s biggest laughs. If you are in love with love, there’s plenty to like in this sexy, silly, entertainingly bubbly Midsummer.
Rating (out of 5): ★★★½