PROVO — Performing through the rest of this week at a variety of different parks Utah Shakespeare in the Park performs A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a fun evening for the whole family and perfectly entertaining.
I made my escape down to Provo this evening to attend Utah Shakespeare in the Park’s newest production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was a bit nervous to see this all too famous work cut down to a production that was to only last not much more than an hour, but nonetheless I am a sucker for Shakespeare. Utah Shakespeare in the Park claims to “carefully cut [plays] to maintain Shakespeare’s beautiful language while making [them] concise and accessible to a modern audience—the perfect way to introduce Shakespeare to your children in a way that will make him beloved rather than boring.” And they did just that! The cut was great, and it they did a wonderful job keeping the integrity of the Bard.
If you haven’t had the chance to see A Midsummer Night’s Dream you must. It is one of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies and has been re-invented time and time again as operas, ballets, and films. The plot is that of two couples (Hermia and Lysander, and Helena and Demetrius) whose romantic cross-purposes are complicated further by their entrance into the woods where the King and Queen of the Fairies (Oberon and Titania) preside as well as the mischievous character of Puck or Robin Goodfellow. Between Oberon and Titania’s quarrels and Puck’s magical love potion the woods are full of excitement. And to toss it all up a bit more, an amateur theatrical group has entered into the same forest to rehearse a play that they hope to perform at the upcoming Duke’s wedding.
The show was charming. Immediately they had me and much of the audience involved in helping create the atmosphere of a fantastical forest by distributing small instruments that then Puck conducted like a symphony of sounds for the enchanting environment throughout the performance. It is scary to give the audience such power of interaction, and I was sitting behind that patron who took full liberty to participate whenever she so well desired but neither the cast nor I were swayed by her reckless shouting to characters as the rest of the audience participated perfectly.
The cast each played a number of different characters, but the stars of this evening were hands down the stars of theatrical group, Bottom, performed by Kevin Batchelor and Quince performed by Kiersten Favero. They are reason enough to check out this production. They took calm command of Shakespeare’s words and had such fun with their characters that when the show was over I only wanted more. Bryce Peterson and Joseph Crandell Hilton in their roles as Demetrius and Oberon respectively also deserve praise for their clear delivery of their lines amidst the noises of the park/traffic surrounding the performance. Helena played by Taylor Warburton had such a fantastic physical comedy; however she talked so fast sometimes that I lost some of the brilliance in her cutting words to Hermia and her own situation. Great job all in all for a well cast show.
There were only a few times that I was distracted in the performance. Several times Lysander (Blake Burdge) made smart remarks between his Shakespeare lines. I am not sure if it was to help the audience understand in simple terms what his character was feeling, but it seemed to just mock Shakespeare’s words and divert attention from the script. There was also some uncertanity as to how far the audience was actually a part of the forest. Immediately it was established that they were involved as the characters would walk through the audience, and right out participated so at once there was no fourth wall where normally an audience would feel like they were looking in on such an experience. The involvement was fun, however quite a few times the dialogue between characters was directed entirely at the audience and I kept thinking, “Why are you telling me? You should tell him.”
Should you see it? If you are looking for a fun, low-key, thoughtless evening of silly theatre— yes. Bring the little ones, and introduce them to Shakespeare. It was worth the trip, Utah Shakespeare in the Park created a completely fun evening for the whole family and perfectly entertaining. I look forward to their upcoming shows this summer.