Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay

A Midsummer Night's Dream
African-American Shakespeare Company
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Patrick's review of Cabaret

Charles Lewis III
Photo by Jay Yamada
One my favorite comedies is William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream I must have seen it at least eight times, including two at Stratford-upon-Avon. There have been various versions, including a modern version done by a company in this city and one that takes place in the Deep South (the opening scene was set in Gone with the Wind's Tara plantation). I had a curiosity about what the Africa-American Shakespeare Company would to do with this play, which they bill as the "carnival world of Trinidad and Tobago." From the first scene, I was thrilled with this production.

Director Sherri Young has taken into the 21st century The Bard's greatest and best aged comedies. This Midsummer Night's Dream places the focus on the wackiness of unrequited love and on the overly hysterical production within the production, the tragic story of "Pyramus and Thisby." This production has everything going for it, including colorful costumes by Rachael Heiman and flamboyant carnivale style dancing. I need not go into the plot, but there are machinations, lovers, magic and fantasies.

Charles Lewis III is outstanding as Puck, or Robin Goodfellow here. He has a voodoo look about him, with a skull painted on his face. He wears a red top hat and on his hands are gloves with LED lights. Shawn J. West is hilarious playing the egocentric Bottom. In rehearsing the death scene in "Pyramus and Thisby," he takes three magnificent minutes to die. He first stands up while thrusting a sword to his side for a minute and he twists and turns for two minutes on the floor.

Paige Mayes as Helena, Jarret Holley as Egeus, Antonette Bracks as Hermia, and Ryan Marchand as Lysander rock as the lovers. Emily T. Phillips is splendid as Hippolyta and she has a true Shakespearean voice, while Mayes is hilarious as she throws her body onto Demetrius to express her yearning for him. Jourdan Oliver-Verde plays both Theseus and Oberon and has a radiant presence and a powerfully clear voice. In the play within the play are Jarrett Holley as Peter Quince, Charlotte Christien as Snug, and Gabriel A Ross as Flute and Thisby. Ross plays Thisby with a high falsetto voice and is sidesplitting when he camps it in drag, looking like film star Veronica Lake. The "fairies" are actors with sticks topped with LED lights. To play the wall in "Pyramus and Thisby," director Peter Quince selects a member from the audience. He chose an 11-year-old girl at the performance I attended, and she was a cute wall.

Bottom Line: This A Midsummer Night's Dream is witty, pulsating, full of oomph, and tremendously imaginative.

African-American Shakespeare Company's A Midsummer Night's Dream plays through October 1, 2017, at the Taube Atrium Theater, 401 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco. There next production is Cinderella for only three days December 22, 23, and 24. Tickets can be obtained at