Thomas F. Bradac, who heads Shakespeare Orange County, values the traditional. He has said for years that the Bard’s canon needs no updating, most recently in an interview last week about his new production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
“It’s really the mission of our company to find the poetry that rings with an audience,” Bradac told The Times. “We want to celebrate the play, not the concept. . . . Instead of putting it in a ’54 Buick or something like that, we want to go to the internal exploration as opposed to the external. We’re going against the trend to modernize and update.”
Unfortunately, this SOC production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which premiered Friday at Chapman University’s Waltmar Theatre, exhibits all the drive and power of a Model-T Ford. It has too little internal combustion to speak of and too much twinkle dust.
If anything is being explored here, it is the audience’s willingness to accept the staging as authentic Shakespeare, traditional or otherwise. It works at the treacly level of a well-intentioned community theater. But in any professional sense, it is disappointing.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was not meant to be silly from beginning to end. But with this production, SOC is offering puerile Shakespeare for children. The dialogue has been trimmed and monologues dropped to speed the action.
Bradac miscalculates when he has almost everyone playing for laughs. He should have left the vaudeville strictly to the rude mechanicals.
Carl Reggiardo, who doubles as a stiff Theseus and a stern Oberon, does Spock-meets-Darth Vader, in pointy ears and a spacey black outfit. Sometimes he tries to appear sprightly and amused. But it just doesn’t work.
Tamiko Washington plays Titania, or what is left of the Faerie Queen’s role, with no impact at all and doubles as a dull Hippolyta. Rena Derezin starts out with promise as Helena but doesn’t take long to turn broadly cartoonish. And Ron Campbell, wearing flower-patterned bloomers, plays Demetrius like a Jerry Lewis goofball.
In the midst of these infractions, Eve Himmelheber and Thom Taylor manage to acquit themselves honorably as Hermia and Lysander, the central pair of mixed-up lovers. Joseph Foss percolates with physical energy as Puck. And Daniel Bryan Cartmell, who has license to be outrageous as Bottom, offers a mild portrait of him as a hipster in beret and sunglasses.
For a semi-professional company operating on a shoestring, SOC has done remarkably well over the past several seasons. This production seems a fluke. Snared by too many pitfalls, it is a forgettable “Dream.”
* “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” Shakespeare Orange County, Chapman University’s Waltmar Theatre, 310 E. Palm Ave., Orange , Thursday-Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 3 p.m . Ends Sept. 16. $21-$23. (714) 744-7016. Running time: 2 hours, 15 minutes.
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Carl Reggiardo: Theseus/Oberon
Tamiko Washington: Hippolyta/Titania
Joseph Foss: Philostrate/Puck
Thom Taylor: Egeus
Donald Sage Mackay: Lysander
Ron Campbell: Demetrius
Eve Himmelheber: Hermia
Rena Derezin: Helena
John Shouse Peter: Quince
Daniel Bryan Cartmell: Nick Bottom
Randy Anderson: Francis Flute
Peter Defeo: Robin Starveling
Craig Fleming: Tom Snout
Mark Talley: Snug
Brian Moreno, Natalie Allen, Kendall Randolph Faeries
Directed by Thomas Bradac. Scene design: Don Gruber. Costume design: Cathy Craig Brown. Lighting design: David Darwin. Original music: Chuck Estes. Sound design: Craig Brown. Stage Manager: W. Brian Hugo.