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THEATER REVIEW: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Musical”

If you take the title literally, you’re free to do just about anything you want in staging Shakespeare’s beloved “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Intrepid Shakespeare Company, which typically does “serious” Shakespeare, has taken the liberty of adding “The Musical” to this title and tossing in ’60s tunes and doo-wop style. They’ve augmented that with a wildly inventive forest set designed by Michael McKeon that allows for rope-swinging and piano playing and lends itself to broad slapstick comedy.

The result is Shakespeare for the kids and the young-at-heart. Don’t bring your Will purist friends – co-directors Christy Yael and Colleen Kollar Smith have excised characters and dropped lines at will in order to keep the show at two hours including intermission. And some of the Bard’s poetry gets a bit lost in the zany shuffle.

But if this isn’t one fun show for a summer evening, I don’t know what is.

You remember the main plot, which involves four lovers. Hermia (Lauren King) loves Lysander (Kevin Koppman-Gue). Demetrius (Brian Mackey) loves Hermia. Helena (Rin Ehlers) loves Demetrius. And Hermia’s father Egeus (Danny Campbell) is trying to force her to marry Demetrius.

When Hermia and Lysander plot to elope to the woods (hey, this is a dream, remember?), their friends Helena and Demetrius follow.

Then there’s the subplot that has Oberon, king of the fairies (Sean Cox) trying to wangle a changeling from his wife Titania (Sandy Campbell). And it turns out that these two are also – dare I say in real life? – Theseus, king of Athens and his betrothed Hippolyta, who are about to tie the knot.

The second subplot involves the “mechanicals,” a ragtag group of laborers who have assembled in the woods to rehearse a play for the king’s nuptials, based on the love story of Pyramus and Thisbe. The sight of this gang grooving to “Sh-boom” is alone worth the price of admission.

Peter Quince (Eddie Yaroch) leads the group; self-important Bottom (Tom Stephenson) will play the lover Pyramus; Antonio “TJ” Johnson plays Snout (and the wall that keeps the lovers apart); David McBean will play Thisbe (in a killer costume and wig); and Savvy Scopelletti plays Snug, complete with a Russian accent.

Oberon, rebuked by Titania (to the tune of “You Don’t Own Me”) in his drive to acquire the changeling, decides to at least stir up some mayhem and sends his own personal mischief-maker Puck (Taylor Peckham, doubling as musical director and pianist) in search of an herb to sprinkle on the subject that will make him or her fall in love with the first person (or thing) seen on awaking.

Of course, the wrong lovers end up together (for a while), but the most hilarious pairing is Titania with Bottom. Picture the lovely Titania, sidling up erotically and singing “At Last” to this squarish person with donkey ears and teeth. The look on his face is priceless.

This is an excellent cast all around. Intrepid co-founder Cox and Campbell anchor the team with solid performances both dramatically and musically. The lovers are wonderfully portrayed; my particular favorite is Ehler’s bespectacled Helena, who gets the short end of the stick every time.

Yael and Smith are adept at keeping the production moving – and Smith, famous for her sparkling choreography for Lamb’s Players Theatre, does the honors here as well.

The show is not without its problems. Chief among them is sound: on opening night, the microphones worked inconsistently, sometimes not at all. And McBean’s Thisbe voice, extremely high and squeaky, was incomprehensible.

But if you’re looking for a way to introduce kids to Shakespeare – or just want to escape the summer doldrums – Intrepid is the place to be.

The details

Intrepid Shakespeare Company’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Musical” plays through Sept. 23 at the Clayton E. Liggett Theatre, 800 Santa Fe Drive (on campus of San Dieguito Academy), Encinitas.

To read more reviews by SDGLN Theater Critic Jean Lowerison, click HERE.

Thursday through Saturday at 8 pm; Sundays at 2 and 7 pm.

For tickets, call 888-718-4253 or visit ¬HERE.