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July 2001

Shakespeare At Stinson: A Midsummer Night's Dream

By Jeff Smith

Shakespeare at Stinson commenced its eighth season May 26th with what is perhaps Shakespeare's funniest and most accessible romantic comedy: A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Has your love life been complicated by magic spells, friendlyâ but kibitzingâ fairies and ironic mishaps? Do you sense someone has made an ass of you and you do not even know it? Have your epicurean tastes switched from potato chips and slim jims to provender, oats, hay and dried peas? Do you feel as though you are lost in a dense sylvan fog? These common social maladies and eating disorders were foreseen by Shakespeare as early as 1594; long before the advent of $90 per hour couples' therapy, serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and hand-held global positioning satellite navigation systems.

Only steps from the Pacific surf of Stinson Beach, inches from the spirogyra and rocky bottom of Easkoot Creek, Shakespeare at Stinson has ascended from the Marin littoral to become one of the bay areas finest Shakespearean venues. And no wonder; its line-up of directors includes Richard Rossi, Kenneth Kelleher and James Dunn: the critically acclaimed masters of bay area theater.

While the Elizabethan English of Shakespeare is often difficult to process and keep pace with, director Richard Rossi has taken care to accentuate the comedy, pare away the obscure, and make the humor as visual as possible. Even school children chortle their way through this play.

Structurally, the comedy rests largely on the characters Bottom and Puck; both of whom are superbly cast. Richard Cross plays the former, with all the malapropisms and buffoonery that can be compressed into the role. Gillian Claire Chadsey is cast as the wily hobgoblin Puck. MS Chadsey uses highly animated facial expressions, crystal clear articulation and fanciful, fluid choreography to elevate good natured impishness to a higher art form. Jennifer Gabbert brings high histrionics to the stage as the doubly wooed Helena.

Aficionados of Shakespeare will greatly enjoy the art which choreographer and movement designer Mary Beth Cavanaugh has generously infused into this production. Her craft is most conspicuous in act 3 scene 2, where the four young lovers, "confounded by the enchanting nectar of the Love-in-idleness flower," argue and brawl over love's inconstancy.

Artistic director Jeffrey Trotter continues to expand the list of amenities at Stinson: early show times to accommodate picnickers, outdoorâ energy efficient, radiant gas heaters that work independent of the machinations of PG&E, free parking for the first 10,000 patrons and blanket viewing zones for young audiences.

For tickets and times call the Shakespeare at Stinson box office at 415 868-1115 or visit their website at www.shakespeareatstinson.org.

 

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