A Mid-Indian Summer Night's Dream: Missing the Bluebonnets

Local Arts Reviews

A Mid-Indian Summer Night's Dream: Missing the Bluebonnets

The Vortex,

through June 25

Running Time: 2 hrs, 30 min

Of Shakespeare's comedies, A Midsummer Night's Dream is particularly well-suited to interpretations fraught with excess (vulnerable even). That point is made anew in Second Stone Theatre's A Mid-Indian Summer Night's Dream, which takes the play out of Athens and sets it in Austin (kind of). In his program notes, director Whitney Milam calls it "a most rare vision." Medium rare may be closer to the mark.

According to the notes, Milam's concept was to "play havoc with the play's original setting." Its locales and characters are diverse and far-ranging, from the Texas Revolution (Theseus is the president of the Texas Republic) to ancient Mexico (Hippolyta is the queen of the Aztecs) to the Industrial Revolution (the Rude Mechanicals) to Native America (the fairy kingdom). The idea is striking, but the production isn't as fully realized as it could be.

For instance, Milam does a great job replacing all references to Athens with Austin, but he isn't as careful transposing other elements of the Bard's work into the Second Stone world. In the same speech in which Oberon, chief of the fairies, orders Puck to find Demetrius ("Thou shalt know the man by the Austinian garments he hath on"), he describes his wife's sleeping place, naming the flowers there -- wild thyme, oxslips, the nodding violet, luscious woodbine, sweet musk-roses, and eglantine -- missing a golden opportunity to mention Texas blooms. I guess he didn't see the bluebonnets right next to Titania's bed.

Moreover, some of the comedic moments in A Mid-Indian Summer Night's Dream come off as contrived -- namely, Oberon's singing while casting enchantments and Lysander and Demetrius' exit to find Helena (Demetrius says, "I'll go with thee, cheek by jowl" and the two pull out wads of chaw and exit cheek-to-cheek). They feel like bits that go on a tad too long.

Some of the moments, however, hit the nail on the head: In her on-the-floor pursuit of Demetrius, Melissa Livingston gives new meaning to Helena's "I am your spaniel" speech ("The more you beat me, I will fawn on you ..."). The Rude Mechanicals are hilarious, looking like a turn-of-the-century, rag-tag version of a Jerry Bruckheimer cast. And while Skip Bandy's Theseus reminds me more of Hazzard County's Boss Hogg trying to "nail them Duke boys!" than a leader of the Republic of Texas, it works. Bandy's comic ad-libbing helps the laugh count. In one bit, when Titania exits the stage, Theseus plays up the Honeymooners bit, "Bang! Zoom!"

Onstage, the actors seem to be enjoying themselves, which brings out the flavor of the comedy. As male rivals Lysander and Demetrius, Michael Cage and Brian Richard, respectively, seem to have lifted their thumb-hitched-in-their-Wranglers posture from an old Marlboro ad. Rebecca Robertson's agile Puck resembles a punk rock raccoon. And Michael Stuart's Nick Bottom has the menacing look of a professional wrestler until his donkey-fied weaver takes the stage.

Shakespeare purists may find this production disturbing, and audiences may not laugh where you think you're going to, but one thing's for sure: A Mid-Indian Summer Night's Dream will make you think of Austinians and Indians in a whole new way.

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Second Stone Theatre, A Mid-Indian Summer Night's Dream, Whitney Milam, Melissa Livingston, Skip Bandy, Michael Cage, Brian Richard, Rebecca Robertson, Michael Stuart

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