To continue my summer quest of enjoying all things outdoors, I am going to talk about theater in the park. This past weekend, we went to see Chicago Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream as part of its “Theater in the Parks” program. It was a wonderful production under the clouds (it never got dark enough for stars). It’s a free program that travels all over the parks of Chicago so it’s probably playing in a park near you. This program is in its third year and I hope that it continues for many more.
The play was wonderful. It’s the tale of love, jealousy, and mischief. The production was set in Victorian or Edwardian eras where the men and women wore appropriate period outfits. It was worked as an interpretation of the story. You can totally see a Victorian father trying to force his daughter into a marriage that she doesn’t want.
For me, the best scenes were the ones with the four Athenian lovers. There was this amazing scene when Lysander and Demetrius are under a love spell over Helena and are fighting for her affection. She’s convinced that they are playing a cruel trick on her. Then Hermia comes in and confronts both Lysander and Helena over this new change in heart. Lysander and Demetrius are fighting over Helena; Helena is fighting with Hermia who is fighting with Lysander. Insults and love declarations are thrown. Hermia even chases after Helena. It’s just a brilliant scene in Shakespeare.
Also, there was a moment when the play perfectly converged with the outdoors. At point, Hermia wakes up and finds herself in the forest alone. At the moment that she realizes that she is alone, a distant bird cried. It really managed to enhance her own loneliness and fear. Thank you Beneficial G-ds of Theater and Universe.
The Mechanics are also pretty amazing and hilarious. They are the folks who plan to put on a terrible play for the Duke’s wedding. In particular, I was impressed by Alex Weisman’s portrayal of Bottom. He’s the mechanic who tries to play all the parts. He also is turned into a donkey. Mr. Weisman was fabulous as Bottom. He really managed to convey an insufferable actor who is so sure of his brilliance. While discussing the Mechanics with my fiancé, he commented, “Shakespeare didn’t really like actors, did he?” Good question. It was also interesting to see this theme of play within the play theme continue since we just saw Hamlet a few weeks ago. Are there other plays with plays within them?
The fairies were interesting…Oberon and Puck had horns. I feel like I’ve heard of horned fairies before but I can’t seem to recall. The fairies’ parts were my least favorite. Something about the tone did not sit well with me. However, the staging was lovely with the fairies. As the lovers wander through the wilderness, the fairies used green umbrellas with cut out holes in them to convey the wilderness. In fact, there was a lot of liberal use of umbrellas throughout the play. Umbrellas should be used more often.
So go forth and see Shakespeare in the Park.