See Midsummer Night’s Dream in Garden Grove, under the Stars … thru August 1!

Dear Film Friends, Romans and Countrymen,

Lend me your ears (and a few bucks, if you can spare it…or a few pucks autographed by the world champion LA Kings…even better). I realize there are some fine films on exhibit at our local art house cinemas, especially in black & white (Ida and The Last Sentence at the Edwards Westpark 8, A Coffee in Berlin at the South Coast Village Regency III, and the irrepressible re-release of the Beatle’s A Hard Day’s Night at the Regency Director’s Cut in Laguna Niguel. I suggest you see them all on the big screen before Ted Turner turns them to color…

However, if you can pull yourselves away from the movie metroplexes, all of which feature free air-conditioning in every auditorium, for an evening under the stars in the fresh air (yes, Libertarians, the EPA does some really good work, for the most part), then I highly recommend you experience A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, presented as never before, at the lovely, conveniently centrally located, Garden Grove Ampitheatre.

If you are like me (for your sake, I hope not), you may have trouble getting past the barrage of indecipherable syllables featured in most renderings of Mr. Shakespeare’s work. My problems with W.S. all began when I had a difficult time understanding the language and the nuance of The Twelfth Night in Mr. Dennis’ 10th grade honors* English class, even though it included a sophomoric Belch, Sir Toby (I think I still possess the paperback, somewhere).

However, this Dream soars, even for a “maybe it was all Marlowe” guy like me, with a continuing aversion to the foreign tongue spoketh by classically trained thespians from around the globe. This adaptation is so well expressed, I could understand the multi-level, multi-cultural aspects in their entirety…a first for me (although, Kenneth Branagh’s 4-hour, 70 MM cinematic presentation of Hamlet (which I saw twice in 70MM at Big Newport in 1996), is a close second and quite spectacular and mostly coherent in its own right, even for the linguistically impaired among us).

Patricia Fa’asua and Morgan Lauff star in “A Misummer Night’s Dream.” Picture Register.

You may have seen the fine film version released in 1999, as I did, featuring a fabulously talented cast with beautiful production qualities, or possibly a traditional telling at a local playhouse. But, most likely, you have never seen a treatment of this play be so majestic. Or more accessible without being dumbed down. Pardon my hard-on for the Bard on Avon. It is newly found admiration and much appreciated. Why?

Because this performance rocks, from the opening drumbeat by the superbly talented percussion ensemble, to Puck’s final soliloquy, spoken with inclusive fervor directly to the audience at the conclusion. It is still a cautionary tale directed at purveyors of potions, adventurous alchemists, fixers of elixirs and mavens of magic, with a nod to the original Greek locale and structure, this imagination of the story by artistic producer, John Walcutt, director Susan Angelo and dramaturge Morgan Green, is truly global, traveling beyond the confines of an English theatre-in-the-round and the Forest of Arden, across the Pacific to Polynesia and New Zealand. Words can’t describe the emotional energy that will embrace and engage all of your senses, especially with the addition of the percussion ensemble and he world-class Hitia O Te Ra Dance Company. This melding of cultures is seamless and sensational.

Josele de Guzman, Sammy McClymonds Nguyen and John Daskalakis, from left, star in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Picture Register.

If ever a performance embraced the adage: “There is no such thing as a small role…” this is it. From the robust stentorian presence provided by the former SOC producer, the awesome Thomas Bradac as Nick Bottom (who undergoes the transformation of a Bottom to an ass in this truly transformative rendition) to the silent child playing the Prince of Peace, EVERY cast member, dancer, and musician (over 70 contributors by my count), is superb and a necessary component in this most memorable mosaic.

Add to that, a venue made for outdoor theatre: with exquisite acoustics, (every utterance is audible from every seat), an accessible set (allowing a simultaneous multiplicity of views, more naturally than a trite device like the split-screen technique sometimes employed in films), fine lighting by an invisible, but proficient technical crew, perfectly clear temperate air, and you have a recipe for a more-than-satisfying evening of ribald culture with refinement. Did I mention the glorious costumes? Inspiring!

Evelyn Carol Case stars in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”  Picture Register.

Despite some salty Shakespearean innuendo, this play is for mischievous sprites of all ages. There is a wonderful park on the periphery conducive to pre-play picnics and plentiful free parking in close proximity. Everyone associated with the venue is supremely nice and helpful. The price of admission is not only an excellent value in today’s market of over-priced entertainment, but it contributes to keeping alive the dream of bringing fine art to the world at-large and to the local community we all share, as well as handing down a precious gift to the future generations in attendance.

Leave the digital imagery behind for an evening (as well as your texting devices). For those who may think that Transformers IV is the acme of erudition, come be emancipated, enchanted, elated, and exhilarated. Look into the eyes of real, living mortals. This is an event to savor. A night to remember (sans ice bergs). It ends July 19th, so there is no time to dally. Contact the box office today.

AND, as an added inducement to ACT RIGHT NOW, the producer promises to provide the celestial presence of a FULL MOON, this Saturday night (July 12th) ONLY, at NO EXTRA CHARGE. You can’t beat that…or be any more ‘midsummer’ than the coming week, for that matter.

That said, I hope to see you at the movies in the near future and, hopefully, at the Garden Grove Ampitheatre for another incredible event. Bravo to the ever-evolving SOC!

Mr. Black


* I know, hard to believe after reading this…

About T R Black