Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Review / Article By Jeff Hudson
This article was originally published on Sacramento News & Review – 10/05/17.
The Davis Shakespeare Festival offers a most appealing, cleverly localized version of this popular comedy, moving the setting to the mythical university town of Athens, California, where the romantically inclined 20-something students ride everywhere on bicycles, and are forever falling in-and-out of love. The forest outside Athens resembles the UC Davis Arboretum. Those familiar with the town will spot cute references to landmark downtown businesses (like “Woodstop Pizza”).
Adding visual appeal are numerous exotic bikes whizzing around the crowd in scenes that call to mind students pedaling through the busy roundabouts on the central campus. The mischievous sprite Puck also rides a skateboard (and athletic young actor Kyle Stoner has clearly done plenty of street surfing).
There are repeated outbreaks of love-at-first sight, and equally abrupt eruptions of romantic discord, all played with good-natured humor by Rob Salas, who is establishing himself as one of the best young directors in the region. Bay Area professional John R. Lewis (who’s done Oregon Shakespeare, California Shakespeare, American Conservatory Theatre, etc.) romps energetically as Bottom (the working-class stiff who gets a donkey head).
There are also lots of original songs with catchy themes by composer Richard Chowenhill, and delightful costumes (by Caitlin Cisek, based in New York). All in all, this production in a 325-seat indoor venue compares quite favorably (at a much more affordable ticket price) with the more elaborate outdoor productions of Lake Tahoe Shakespeare.