If you enjoyed MixTape, which just started its third year of performances downtown, or if you liked Mamma Mia, the ABBA sensation that’s still going strong in New York and on tour, you have a good chance of liking Intrepid Shakespeare Company’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Some of you are undoubtedly scratching your heads and saying, “Huh?” about now. After all, we’re talking Shakespeare, not pop music, here.
But, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s most popular comedies, and it’s particularly amenable to theatrical messing around. There seems to be no such thing as a “standard” production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
And, Intrepid pulled in San Diego theatre regulars to put on this Dream, most notably Colleen Kollar Smith, who originated MixTape, the popular Lamb’s Players Theatre 80’s music revue. Along with Intrepid’s Christy Yael, she’s put together a lively and highly physical Dream that incorporates a bunch of popular music, most of it from the 1960s.
Here’s where Mamma Mia comes in. This musical overlays a bunch of ABBA songs onto a sappy love story. You knew the ABBA songs, and you could figure out which ones they HAD to put in the show, but the pleasure came from watching the creators shoehorn the songs into the story. Intrepid’s Dream takes the reverse tack: you (probably) know the story, and you know the music when you hear it, but the pleasure comes from how the music hooks itself onto the plot.
In case you don’t know the story, though, here’s the quick version: there’s three plot lines that converge in the end. The first involves two couples, Demetrius (Brian Mackey) and Helena (Rin Ehlers) and Lysander (Kevin Koppman-Gue) and Hermia (Lauren King). Hermia’s supposed to marry Demetrius, but she loves Lysander, while Helena loves Demetrius. The second involves a lover’s spat between a fairy king and queen (Sean Cox and Sandy Campbell), as well as between their human counterparts. The third involves a group of townspeople (Tom Stephenson, Eddie Yaroch, David McBean, Antonio “TJ” Johnson, and Savvy Scopelletti) who are planning to present a play at what is supposed to be Hermia and Demetrius’ wedding. Finally, there’s Puck (Taylor Peckham, who doubles as music director), a sprite who uses magic spells to create chaotic intertwining of the three stories.
Now, if you’re familiar with the local theatre scene this cast list may have you salivating to the point of drool. And, you’d be justified: there’s a gaggle of laughs generated by moments such as Kevin Koppman-Gue leapfrogging Brian Mackey, or David McBean doing the bass line on a doo-wop number before donning drag and a high voice to perform the heroine of the play-within-a-play. And, if you recall Sandy Campbell’s recent lead performance in Cygnet’s production of Parade you know that she can sell a song.
All’s not perfect, though. The technical aspects (set design by Michael McKeon, lighting design by Curtis Mueller, sound design by Patrick Hoyny) are functional but not particularly attractive. The costumes (by Beth Merriman) are a mixed bag, but when they’re good they’re really good. There were a lot of problems with sound on opening night –hopefully the execution will improve. The cast is on the floor a lot, and the audience is in bleachers looking down. Your ability to see what’s going on at times may depend on who’s sitting in front of you. And, worst of all, with all of the cuts (the show runs two hours including intermission, a good hour shorter than the original) it feels like there’s a lot of fun songs and not all that much Shakespeare.
Intrepid performs at San Dieguito Academy, and the company has a commitment to bringing theatre to school audiences. This fast-moving and upbeat show should work well in that setting. The best payoff, though, would be introducing students to the work of some of high-quality local actors.