Tuesday October 23 4:29 pm

Spotlighting events along the south shore of Lake Michigan

Chicago Shakespeare's “Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a Magical Spellbinder

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Duke Thesus (Fortunato) and his fiancée, Hippolyta (Christiana Clark) are getting ready for their wedding when Egeus (Jarrett King) drags his daughter Hermia (Faith Servant) into court. Egeus has decided that she will marry Demetrius (Andrew L. Saenz), but she refuses the match because she loves Lysander (understudy Daniel C. Brown stepped in for Christopher Sheard opening day).

Egeus, citing an obscure law that would condemn her to death if she won’t marry his choice, demands obedience. When Hermia stands firm, the Duke made the order, which infuriated Hippolyta. When Helena (Ally Carey) who loves Demetrius ( who won’t give her the time of day) overhears Hermia and Lysander planning to run away, she tells Demetrius, planning to follow and seduce him into loving her.

The Mechanicals, a group of working men, plan to put on a play to honor the Duke. Quince (King) will direct Nick Bottom (Adam Wesley Brown), Sout (Richard Costes), Snug (Hannah Starr), Starveling (Drew Shirley) and Flute (Lane Anthony Flores). Every part he mentions, Bottom is ready play.

Oberon (Fortunato) and Titania (Clark) are bickering. She has a changling child, he wants the changling, she refuses, and leaves with her fairies (Flores and Starr). Oberon is furious, so he orders Puck (Travis Turner) to put the sap of a certain flower on Titania’s eyelids which will make her fall in love with the first thing she sees – which turns out to be Bottom who now has an ass’s head.

Oberon watched Helena pursuing Demetrius and decided to help her, telling Puck to put the sap on the eyelids of a man wearing Athenian clothing. Puck follows orders, putting the sap on Lysander who wakes up and falls in love with Helena.

Hermia and Helena have a hysterically funny physical confrontation and have to be restrained by the men. By morning, however, Oberon undoes everything the spells, the lovers awake with the correct partner, and everyone has an HEA.

I’d been in the Yard, CST’s newest performance space before, but the setup for Short Shakespeare! is completely different. Entering the CST lobby, everyone was instructed to move upstairs to the Dress Circle and walk over to the Yard from there. To my surprise, even though we were sure we were on the upper level, when we walked in, the Yard floor was raised and we were sitting front and center. I was Gobsmacked!

After the performance, the entire cast sits down onstage for a question and answer session with the audience. The entire cast, in costume, join the audience in the lobby after the performance to interact, pose for pictures and sign autographs. I jotted down some of the insightful questions from the audience. I’ve included a couple of the answers, too.

• Who did the shorter adaptation? Director Jess McLeod
• Is it hard to play two parts? Duke/Oberon, Hippolyta/Titania are designed to be played by same actors, so no. It’s a little harder for Mechanicals/fairies, since there’s not a lot of time to change costumes between scenes.
• Was Puck’s look inspired by a well-known rap singer? No, actually inspired by Nijinsky photo in which his character was half human, half animal.
• Why do all the characters get married?
• What is it like to play a wall?
• Did you all study Shakespeare?

As I was leaving, I complimented Marilyn Halperin, CST’s Director of Education, on the production. I also told her how impressed I was at CST’s ability to build new audiences. She said that it isn’t just about the audiences, although that’s important. It’s more about introducing young people to Shakespeare’s incredible stories.

“Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer’s Night Dream” runs through March 10th in the Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre on Navy Pier. Patrons receive a 40% discount on parking in the Navy Pier Garages, so be sure and get your ticket validated in the CST lobby.

Running time is 75 minutes, no intermission. Public performances are on Saturdays at 11:00 am and 2:00 pm. There is an Audio-Described Performance on February 17th at 11:00 am and an Open-captioned and ASL Duo-interpreted Performance on February 24th at 11:00am. Tickets range from $22-$34. FYI (312) 595-5600 or www.chicagoshakes.com