Ode to Cal Shakes: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

It was hot.  So hot that self felt she was sitting in a jeepney in the Philippines.  But she didn’t want to get up or miss even one minute of the Cal Shakes’ production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” She loved every single moment: Young love, crossed purposes, magic potions, sexy Queens, a handsome Lysander (strumming a banjo —  and his voice was not bad, either), a feisty Hermia, a very hip Puck (bronze Coke-bottle shades, fur down both pants legs, bare chest, thank God he was buff), a hilarious Bottom, mood music, a rousing finale —  what more could one wish for?

In keeping with the setting, this production was like a family affair: Puck addressed the cell phone issue and segued right into his lines from the play.  Characters ran up and down the aisles, or looked directly at various audience members as they were speaking.  When The Players perform, in Act II, members of the cast were seated among the audience, shouting their comments.  It might have been like this at the Globe –?  This is what self loves so much about watching a Cal Shakes’ production:  There is a lot of extemporaneous and impromptu action.  Shakespeare isn’t “heavy,” like a classical tome.


Plays are not really hubby’s thing, and he was missing a whole day’s worth of football games.  The supreme sacrifice!  But self was in heaven.  Sheer heaven.  So was son.  So was son’s friend.  In the end, we clapped, we cheered, we hooted.  The whole cast got up on the stage and danced.  They danced!  It felt like 100 degrees in the shade, we could see the actors’ faces flushed red, their costumes must have felt like lead armor.  And they have to do it all over again tonight  —  no one can pay these people enough.

Son only came up for this one reason.  Otherwise, he has the GRE to study for, a job as a research assistant, many other activities.  And self probably wouldn’t have gotten the tickets, if it were just she and hubby, for fall is really his season, his season to be a couch potato all weekend!

Oh, but the lure of an energetic young cast and the open-air seating and sitting at picnic tables while listening to a Cal Shakes staff member discuss what it means to “dote” on someone, Hermia’s insecurity about her height, and the ritual which ends so many of Shakespere’s plays (marriage), and looking at the new artwork that materialized on the grounds since the last time we were there, two years ago (a whole flock of white sheep that self thought at first were real, a tiny two-foot high pine tree of bronze metal).

The lines for the restrooms at intermission were very long.  So what?  She’d do it again.  Let’s see, next year they’re putting on “Macbeth.”

Cal Shakes, self is simply crazy about you.


  1. September 28, 2009 at 9:40 pm

    On behalf of Cal Shakes, thank you for your enthusiastic review! I’m going to see the show tomorrow night for the third time, and I haven’t been able to get that closing number out of my head, although, admittedly, I’m not trying very hard.

    Also, about those bathrooms… did you know that next year–perhaps when you come to see Macbeth–there will be twice the number of them?! It’s true. Check out http://www.calshakes.org/future

  2. September 28, 2009 at 10:15 pm

    I didn’t mind the lines for the bathroom. Don’t mind the seating arrangements, either. I wonder what it will be like when there’s an actual building instead of the current set-up.

    I must say, I love the informality and the “can-do” attitude of the cast and the audience. I wish I lived closer, I’d be a season holder for sure! (This is my fourth Cal Shakes play, we seem to manage the trip only every other year. Our first production was “Romeo and Juliet,” then we saw “Henry V,” then “Richard III”, and now “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I’ve seen Shakespeare on Broadway and at Steppenwolf. I liked your “Midsummer Nights Dream” the best!)

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