Pack a picnic, take the kiddies, grab a blanket or a chair, and head off to the Arden Woods. In this case, those woods are disguised as Edgerton Park on the New Haven/Hamden border and the Elm Shakespeare Company is eagerly awaiting your arrival. The company has been preparing a simply delightful rendition of one of the Bard’s favorite offerings, perfect for the family and the season, “A Midsummer’s Night Dream,” evenings at 8 p.m. August 23-28, and August 30-September 4, every night but Mondays.
The woods are mysterious and deep, inviting and menacing, intriguing and forbidding, all at the same time. Whereas Shakespeare often dealt with one set of star-crossed lovers, this time around he has multiplied the fun by dealing with pairs. Mathematically, the odds are not really in their favor. The fair Hermia (Anna Paratore) is pining for the noble Lysander (Steven Godoy) but her father (Gracy Brown Kierstead) strenuously objects and wants her to marry his choice of mate, Demetrius (Anthony Peeples). The Duke (Dave Demke) who rules Athens has been involved and is threatening Hermia to obey or else she will be sent to a nunnery, banished or face death. The Duke himself is on the verge of marriage to Hippolyta (Tai Verley) and is planning his own nuptials, engaging a group of actors to perform for him.
The actors led by Peter Quince (Caley Miliken) include a verbose Bottom (Raphael Massie) who feels he should play all the parts and leave none for his fellow thespians Flute (Jeremy Funke), Snug (Jordan Simpson), Snout (Nathan Tracy) and Starveling (Elisa Albert). Bottom gets to play a major role in an intrigue not of his own making when Oberon, King of the Fairies (Frederick Secrease) decides to play a trick on his Queen, Titania (Kristin Wold) when she angers him by denying him access to a changing boy he wants. Oberon sends his servant Puck( Evan Gambardella) to make mischief by dropping a sleeping potion of flowers into the eyes of unsuspecting people in the woods, causing them to awaken and fall in love with whomever they see first. That’s how Titania becomes smitten with Bottom in his guise as a donkey, much to Oberon’s delight.
Also caught up in Puck’s fun as Cupid is Helena, a good friend of Hermia’s, who is in love with Demetrius ( the one who loves Hermia) and she invites him to follow Hermia and Lysander who enter the forest to run off to marry. Soon the enchanted woods are filled with all the lovers from Athens as well as all the whimsical creatures who accompany Titania and everyone is experiencing problems of a romantic nature, thanks to Puck. The trees look like they are lit by a million fireflies to add to the magic. This is Elm Shakespeare’s nineteenth season and now with their alliance with Southern Connecticut State University as the theater in residence the partnership opens new possibilities for additional greatness, thanks to Producing Director Rebecca Goodhearted and this production’s innovative director Tina Packer.
Plan now to attend Magic in the Woods, a Gala & Auction on Thursday, September 1 from 5 p.m. on at Edgerton Park, Cliff Street entrance with food, drink and exciting auction items. This fundraiser supports the year round educational pursuits of the organization. Tickets start at $75 and are available at ElmShakespeare.org or 203-392-8882. Come support this wonderful enterprise with your attendance and donations.
If you were caught in the tangled web of an arranged marriage, you too might take flight into the forest and like Lysander bemoan the fact that “the course of true love never did run smooth."