Shakespeare at Sundance?
Yes.Music and dancing with "A Midsummer Night's Dream"?
Well, sort of.
Does it work?
Trust Sundance veteran director/choreographer Jayne Luke to try something new. Last year it was a delightfully innovative production of "Singin' in the Rain." This summer it's Shakespeare's frothy tale of fairies, fantasy, and romance gone awry. The live background music sounded a bit anemic Saturday night, and the dancing was on the gentler side, but as the Bard himself would say, the play's the thing. And a delightful thing it is, too.
This is one Shakespeare play that even youngsters could follow and enjoy. And even if they couldn't understand all the words, there is enough color, action, and humor to keep it interesting.
Regal Peggy W. Matheson portrays the lovely Hippolyta, betrothed to Theseus, a duke, played with great flourish by Kevin D. Halladay. In this interpretation of the play, Hippolyta falls asleep and dreams of herself as the fairy queen Titania and Theseus as Oberon.
Luke and Betsey Nagel play Hermia and Helena, part of a twisted love quadrangle in which they act like fawning, lovesick puppies and best friends in a cat fight. Richard Bugg makes a suave Lysander, who is in love with Hermia, and John Perryman is an imposing character as Demetrius, also in love with Hermia but pursued relentlessly by Helena.
Sam Stewart is a bumbling, acrobatic Puck. Kent D. Burrell creates a clear distinction between his role as the prancing father of Hermia and as Flute, the bellows mender. David Spencer, Doug Fahl, and Nathan Peck add to the hilarity of the craftsmen's entertainment, which is a highlight of the show. Foremost among them, though, is BYU theater professor Charles Metten, a usually dignified man who successfully dons donkey ears and buck teeth and plays the role of Bottom to the hilt.
Cavorting attendants to Titania include Angela Roberts, Wayne Moon, Amy C. Lives, and Teri Stutz. The changeling child is played alternately by Cathy Bugg and Katie Matheson.
Of course, all the choreography is not in the brief dances. Much of the action onstage - especially the fight scenes - requires well planned movement.
Janet Swenson's costuming also enhances the production. Billowy Bo Peep-ish gowns and ribboned hats on Hermia and Helena, lacey ascots and knee-high boots on their lovers, the elegant feathered capes of Oberon and Titania, and the fairies' shimmering costumes all lend a magical feel to the show.
Sundance's pine trees and starlit sky are the perfect backdrop for the setting in the woods, and Stephen Dimond has designed clever set pieces which quickly transform the stage from a formal garden in 17th century Paris to an enchanted forest.
This is accessible Shakespeare that almost anyone should enjoy - providing people come dressed for the experience. I am always amazed at the apparent first-timers who show up at the outdoor theater in the mountains empty-handed, wearing only T-shirt, shorts, and sandals.
The fact that concessionaires were doing a booming business with hot chocolate during intermission Saturday night ought to be a clue. Dress in layers, and bring your parka and warm blankets. You'll enjoy Sundance Summer Theater a whole lot more.