Fun with the bard's tangled web

Rounding out the 2011 La Canada Flintridge Shakespeare Festival's theatrical offerings, Vanguard Repertory Company presents a raucous revival of “A Midsummer Night's Dream.”

Adapted by Matthew Kellen Burgos and the show's director, Sam R. Ross, this pared down, one-act version moves along smoothly, with scenes unfolding at a well-oiled pace.

Credit for this goes to Ross' casting of Jason Vizza as the spritely Robin Goodfellow, also known as Puck.

Vizza's performance of this mischievous elf is enchanting as he rules the roost, a sort of master puppeteer manipulating every aspect of the tale.

Never exiting the stage, Vizza provides background underscoring on a guitar for the entire production. It's an extremely effective touch.

Meanwhile, this fantastical tale is made up of various and sundry characters representing royalty, working class folk and the supernatural.

Most successful are “The Mechanicals,” a collection of laborers set on providing entertainment for the wedding of Grecian Duke Theseus and his Amazonian queen bride, Hippolyta.

David Ross Paterson leads this quintet with his portrayal of the pompously self-centered Nick Bottom, a weaver whose attempts to play every role are hilarious.

Often overshadowed by this thespian group's high jinks is the role of Peter Quince, a carpenter whose job it is to compose and direct these courtly pieces.

In this case, however, Matthew Kellen Burgos' performance is a refreshing stand-out. Frustrated at every turn by his companions' lack of focus, his simmering irritation is most entertaining.

Completing this troupe are Walter Wolfe as Francis Flute, a bellows-mender; Eliza Kiss as Tom Snout, a tinker; and Sean F. Toohey as Snug, a joiner, whose stuttering rendition of a lion is laugh-out-loud-funny.

Although theirs are the most truncated in this shortened version, Clay Wilcox and Kirstin A. Snyder provide solid performances as both the earthly royals and their fairy counterparts, Oberon and Titania.

Amidst this revelry, two pairs of excellently played lovers pursue one another through the play's forest setting with crisscrossed affections.

Zack Kraus' business-like Demetrius loves Elisa K. Blandford's precocious Hermia, but she loves Jeramy Felch's playboy-like Lysander, who hopes to elope with her.

Unfortunately, no one seems to care a whit for Lauren Dobbins Webb's lovelorn Helena, whose bespectacled eyes are set on Demetrius.

Further knotting Shakespeare's tangled web, Puck liberally sprinkles Cupid's dust, creating chaos among the quartet of paramours.

Choreographer Tracey Bonner has ably constructed this foursome's fight sequences. In particular, Blandford's pro-wrestling-style double-choking of Kraus and Felch is a near showstopper.

As an additional bonus, Vanguard acting interns Addie Wolfe and Lara Repko are delightful as Puck's impish assistants.

Located in our community's own backyard, this must-see production is worth the drive up Chevy Chase Canyon.

About the writer

DINK O'NEAL, an actor and member of the American Theatre Critics Assn., resides in Burbank.

Infobox

What: “A Midsummer Night's Dream”

When: Runs in repertory with “Tragic Women” and “After the Autumn” through July 31. 8 p.m. performances.

Where: Byrnes Amphitheater, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, 440 St. Katherine Drive, La Cañada Flintridge.

Tickets: $12 to $29 for individual tickets; $22 to $48 for festival passes.

Contact: (818) 745-3327 or visit www.vanguardrep.com
 
 

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