Theatre Review: Tahoe Shakespeare Festival


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Shakespeare’s comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is famously adaptable, and the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival is presenting a novel interpretation, setting the play in swinging London during the psychedelic 60s.

The 1960s theme shows up early in this handsome outdoor production as Oberon and Titania – Shakespeare’s powerful fairy king and queen – appear on stage wearing flowing robes from India and garlands of flowers, like gurus on a meditation retreat.  But peace and harmony are the last things these two have on their minds. (sitars rising).

Oberon: Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania.

Titania: What, jealous Oberon? I have forsworn your bed and company.

Oberon: Tarry, rash wonton! Am I thy Lord?

Titania: Then I must be thy lady. Why art thou here, come from the farthest Steppe of India?

That line referencing Oberon coming from India is actually found in Shakespeare’s script, so the sitar music heard throughout this show is not a stretch. Director Charlie Fee works in more links to the psychedelic era – the spirit Puck wears bright paisley; the young and eligible girl Hermia romps around in a miniskirt; there’s even a vintage Volkswagen Bug in several scenes. It’s a concept that blends in remarkably well through scene after scene in this smartly organized show.

But the comedy is also fueled by pure parody and belly-laughs.  In this scene, some working class dudes are mounting a classic tragedy on stage. The play-within-a-play concludes with the unrequited hero Pyramus attempting to do himself in with his sword, milking the scene by pretending to stab himself in so many places that his fellow actors finally tell him to wrap it up.

Bottom (as Pyramus): Die…. (audience laughter) Die…. (laughter) Die…. Die….

Fellow actors: DIE!

This kind of over-the-top farce made Monty Python a sensation in the late 60s, but Shakespeare mastered the trick a few hundred years earlier.

The show also benefits from its capable cast with eleven professional actors. They give this “Dream” a glossy sheen along with its clever concept. All told, this is the best… and grooviest production I’ve seen at Lake Tahoe Shakespeare in years.

Check out Jeff's audio postcard from this year's festival.

The Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival present's A Midsummer Night’s Dream through Autust 25, 2013 at Sand Harbor on the Nevada shore. 




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