Last Sunday, Lisa and I headed down to Los Angeles’ Griffith Park to catch the first half of this summer’s installment of free Shakespeare in the park presented by Independent Shakespeare Company: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, directed by ISC Artistic Director Melissa Chalsma.
You all know how much I love what Indy Shakes does, and how they do it. And this is par-for-the-course Indy Shakes. I know that sounds like damnation by way of faint praise, but hear me out.
This is a solid production. We get a fairy band that is an actual fairy band, and Chalsma uses the musicality as part of the magic. We get a great Theseus/Oberon and Hippolyta/Titania dynamic in Evan Lewis Smith and Aisha Kabia (and that parallel pairing has this great put-it-to-the-patriarchy vibe, with Hippolyta not afraid to walk on Theseus while giving him the finger, and Titania physically controlling Oberon in their first meeting). The four lovers are well drawn, with the ladies (as is often the case in this play), Katie Powers-Faulk and Julia Aks, especially winning. And of course, David Melville steals the show as the scene-stealing Bottom (not that the rest of the rude mechanicals don’t fight for theatrical control and audience sympathies throughout).
This is a very good production of the play, well-enjoyed by those in attendance, and well worth the trek to Griffith Park.
Independent Shakespeare has done so many truly great productions (their All’s Well from earlier this year just being the latest example), that they’ve set the bar so damned high, that it’s difficult to hit those hallowed heights every time out of the gate. For me, it’s like seeing Springsteen live… even if it’s not the best Springsteen I’ve seen, it’s still better than the vast majority of shows I do see.
And maybe there’s a bit of a “Titus effect” taking place here. With the hard-sell of Titus Andronicus coming at the beginning of next month, a nice (safer) palette-cleansing play is needed as counterbalance, both thematically and for financial viability. And Midsummer certainly fits the bill.
So yeah, this review sounded like damning by faint praise, but it’s not: no damnation, just real praise.