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The Independent

July 20, 2018

Midsummer Night's Dream - Review; Magical Setting for Shakespeare

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Posted: Thursday, July 6, 2017 12:00 am

It's curious to realize that nowadays, for Shakespeare, was some 422 years ago.

That is, of course, the genius of Shakespeare – his ability to touch an eternal vein running through mankind throughout time. When Bottom, in A Midsummer's Night Dream, says, "And yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together nowadays," we cannot help but smile in recognition; we are not only seeing the incongruity of sense and love in those around us, but in ourselves. Who has not wished they could love by choice, or cease by will?

The Livermore Shakespeare Festival's fabulous production of A Midsummer Night's Dream opened on June 29, with performances running through Sunday, July 16.

"Our production is placed in a very magical environment at Wente Vineyards. The venue lends itself to a play taking place in a fairy kingdom. In the forest, at night, magic is possible," says Director Gary Armagnac. "Shakespeare outdoors, at night, surrounded by the hills and the vines is pretty hard to beat."

Performed outdoors at the lovely Wente Vineyards Estate Winery & Tasting Room on Tesla Road, Livermore Shakespeare Festival (LSF) productions come to life under the same twinkling stars and glowing moon that shone on Romeo and Juliette, Antony and Cleopatra, and Oberon and Titiana.

It is the latter couple who light up the stage for this, the first of LSF's two summer productions.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream is all true - according to its own laws," says Armagnac. "The play, arguably Shakespeare's most frequently-produced work, is also very funny. Inside the comedy is an examination of the nature of reality and illusion. Things in this play are not always what they seem. How do we know if love is real? Magic and love seem closely related."

The plot, in a nutshell, depicts events surrounding the marriage of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the former queen of the Amazons. Interconnecting plots weave in the misadventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of amateur actors who are manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest. Add in mischievous fairy Puck (played hilariously by Paul Barrois), misdirected love potions, and Nick Bottom (played brilliantly by Russell Marcel) whose overconfidence heightens his silly mistakes and misuse of language. When Puck takes Bottom's name to be another word for ass, he transforms Bottom's head into that of a jackass, yet Bottom remains ignorant of his donkey head, marking the pinnacle of his foolish arrogance.

What makes A Midsummer Night's Dream such a treat for LSF audiences is its: quirky, charismatic and commanding performances; gorgeous costumes ranging from regal and sleek to earthy and diaphanous; and the in-the-round stage that brings spectators up close to – nearly into – the action.

And, of course, there's the wine. Attendees are invited to arrive early to wine taste at Wente, then bring their wine glasses and bottles into the seating area to enjoy during the performance. In addition, Wente Vineyards features its gourmet food truck with wood-fired pizzas so that starting at 6 p.m., attendees can picnic on the lush grounds as the sun sets.

A Midsummer Night's Dream is suitable for ages 7 and up. In fact, Livermore's 2nd-graders are already familiar with the plot. Through LSF's "So Wise So Young" program, teaching artists visit classrooms using the text of A Midsummer Night's Dream to help youngsters gain language skills, improve comprehension of key details, express ideas through drama, and relate themes in Shakespeare's work to their own lives. To see a charming three-minute video of Livermore youngsters describing A Midsummer Night's Dream, visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPyTiyjQKCM.

Following each show, attendees of all ages are invited to visit the "Selfie with the Fairies" photo station to take commemorative photos with the characters.

Upcoming performances take place July 6, 7, 8, 9, 15 and 16. All shows begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 - $50, and for children 18 and under, $18. Attendees are encouraged to dress in layers and bring blankets as evenings can get chilly (blankets will also be available to rent or purchase). This Wente venue is located at 5565 Tesla Road.

For more information visit LivermoreShakes.org or call (925) 443-BARD.

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