A Midsummer Night's Dream
Also see Dean's review of Romeo and Juliet
Director David Richard Jones has set it in the New Mexico territory around 1850. I'm not sure, but I think he's trying to reflect the three distinct cultures that predominate in our state. The Anglos are Theseus, Egeus, and the four young lovers. (Theseus and Egeus have settlers' accents, as if they moved in from Texas.) The "mechanicals" would be the Spanish-speaking population, with Peter Quince here affecting a classic New Mexico Hispanic accent. And the fairies are Native Americans in ceremonial dress, seeing as they wear shaman-like feathered garb and have painted faces.
It all works wonderfully because the cast is talented and energetic, and the director is a past master at Shakespeare. He has wisely chosen to drop the bit about the changeling boy being the source of conflict between Titania and Oberon. (I found that hard to understand the first couple times I saw the play, and always thought it had a whiff of pedophilia about it.) The play zips along, we don't have to wait for scene changes since there is almost no set, and the choice of music is apt.
It opens with "Cielito Lindo." Why? Probably because of some lines that I had never paid attention to before: "Una flecha en el aire, cielito lindo, lanzó Cupido." An arrow in the air, lovely darling, Cupid launched. It's the juice of that flower on which Cupid's arrow landed that causes all the complications.
It's sort of unfair to single out certain cast members from this ensemble play, but of course I'll do it anyway. Micah Linford is commanding, even a little scary, as Oberon. Ed Chavez's Puck is out of this world, as he should be. Ed is always great in comic roles, and here, with a goofy walk and manic expressions, he's like Ed Chavez on speed. Dangerously good.
The four young lovers are all fine: Emma Boiselle, Sage Hughes (this is a good role for her), Augustus Pedrotty, and Paul Hunton (who's good in everything).
A Midsummer Night's Dream was post-modern almost 400 years before the term even existed. It's in part a play about putting on a play, and I think the scenes with the mechanicals are among the funniest things ever written. I love Ruben Muller's accent as Peter Quince, and all the rest are excellent: Gerome Olona, Nathan Chavez, and Owen Reid Callis (what a voice!). Sef Garcia's little speech as the Lion, starting out all astutter and ending in joyous confidence, is the most heartwarming moment I have experienced in the theater all year.
Pride of place among the mechanicals, though, goes to Martin Andrews as Bottom. As a depiction of a vain, hammy actor, Shakespeare's Bottom has never been topped. (At least I don't think so.) It's one of the great comic roles of all time, and Martin Andrews plays it to the hiltmore than once, in fact, during Pyramus's death scene.
The play closes with what is in effect New Mexico's state song, "Las Mañanitas," which contains the line "venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte," which I'm loosely translating as: We all came with joy and pleasure to make you happy. Indeed, they did.
In closing, one brief personal note for the cast and directors of this mini Shakespeare festival:
This serpent's tongue perforce at time offends.
William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, directed by David Richard Jones, is being presented by the City of Albuquerque and the Vortex Theatre in Civic Plaza in downtown Albuquerque. Through July 13, 2014. Remaining dates are July 4, 5, 10, and 13. The show starts at 7:30, with pre-show entertainment at 7:00. For more information, see vortexabq.org.