'Midsummer' a wild ride from Center Rep
By Pat Craig
Staff writer
Contra Costa Times


If you need a promise of sunshine and smiles that is much more dependable than the current weather, take yourself over to Walnut Creek's Lesher Center for Center Rep's wily, innovative and enormously appealing production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

This wild blend of romance, magic, potions and the sort of spirits that playfully haunt warm summer nights is a bright theatrical breeze that, for at least a couple of hours, will take your mind off whatever might have you upset.

In the magical world of "Midsummer," life is a headlong and uncompromisingly funny race toward happily ever after. And it all starts at the palace, where a marriage has been arranged between Hermia (Lizzie Calogero) and Demetrius (Darren Bridgett). But Hermia loves Lysander (Adam Yazbeck), and Demetrius is adored by Helena (Elise Youssef). And just before Hermia's father, Egeus (Richard Louis James), can demand that his daughter either be executed or shipped off to a nunnery, the four young lovers run away to the woods, where everything is crazy, but in a much more pleasant way.

As the quartet of lovers rattles across the forest trying to sort things out, we also encounter the rude mechanicals, tradesmen (Arthur Jason Keng, Mark Anderson Phillips, Joel Roster, Liam Vincent and Michael A. Berg) who are rehearsing a play for the royal wedding. We also learn that the royals from the castle, King Theseus (Kalli Jonsson) and Queen Hippolyta (Carie Kawa), have been transformed into the fairy king and queen, and one of the king's men, Philostrate (Mick Mize), has been turned into a super-sprite named Puck.

Not surprisingly, the story remains a classic mad dash, but director Michael Butler has given the show a sassy sort of attitude that plays a brief homage to Cirque du Soleil when two acrobats from the band of fairies, played by members of the SF. Dance Brigade (Sarah Bush, Fredrika Keefer, Krissy Keefer, Lena Gatchalian and Kimberly B. Valmore), fly in from the ceiling swinging on elastic ropes.

This sets the tone for the flashy style of the entire production, which blends top-notch acting and dancing (choreography by Krissy Keefer), as well as wonderful music, including a score by Marc Ream, intense physical comedy and a take-no-prisoners presentational style that has this "Midsummer" moving across the stage like a jet-powered circus parade.

Contributing to the mood of the piece is a clever and flexible set by Kim A. Tolman that serves as everything from the castle to a jungle gym for the dancers. The lighting by Kurt Landisman and sound design by Will McCandless also enhance the ambience of the show beautifully.