Tuesday, July 19, 2016


Stage trees vs. the real thing
Stark, but fun Dream launches new SCS space

It's fitting that Santa Cruz Shakespeare chooses A Midsummer Night's Dream as the inaugural production for its spanking new venue at DeLaveaga Park. That they even got the stage erected in time for opening day is no less a feat of magic than anything devised by Puck and his fleet of fairies.

The set and costumes may be minimalist, but a wonderful cast performing Shakespeare's beloved comedy, and a sense of adventure on both sides of the stage, keep patrons engaged.

First the facts: the Festival Glen at UCSC is no more, at least as a performance space for this company. Ousted by the university (which retained the original name, Shakespeare Santa Cruz), the company has risen phoenix-like, rebranded itself as Santa Cruz Shakespeare, and found a new home in DeLaveaga Park.

City Council approval to build the new space was granted in February of this year, meaning SCS has had a scant five months to complete construction.

Addison + Ellis: love potion goes awry
The stage nestles in a grove of pine and eucalyptus, with an open space for picnicking in front of tiered rows of permanent benches and chairs. Sightlines are good, and the box office, restrooms, and parking lot are all immediately adjacent to the performance space (so you no longer need hiking boots and GPS to navigate to the stage area). Named in honor of the company's intrepid co-founder, and tireless supporter, the space is called Audrey Stanley Grove.

Director Terri McMahon's production begins with youthful fairies in baby blue dragging pillows onstage and falling asleep, as the four plots kick in. An extravagant wedding ceremony is about to be held for Duke Theseus of Athens (Cody Nickell) and the Amazon Queen Hippolyta (Mia Ellis).

But first, a noblewoman complains to the Duke that her daughter, Hermia (Katherine Ko — appropriately little and fierce, also funny), refuses to marry the suitor her mom has picked out for her, Demetrius (Brian Smolin, so hilarious in last season's The Liar), Demetrius was formerly engaged to Helena (Mary Cavett), who still pines for him.

But Hermia loves Lysander (Kyle Hester), so that night, they run away—followed by Demetrius, who is followed by Helena. All are soon lost in the forest, where Oberon and Titania, the King and Queen of the fairies, (also played by the commanding Nickell, and the warm, regal Ellis) are having a tiff.

Meanwhile, some tradesmen of the town, are rehearsing a play to perform for the Duke's nuptials. Most enthusiastic of her crew is Nick Bottom, all too eager to take on every part in their show, played with endearing comic bombast by Bernard K. Addison. When a fairy love potion goes awry, the fairy queen falls in love with Bottom, who has acquired the head (and other characteristics) of an ass.

All's well that ends well: lovers correctly matched at last
Christina Dinkel's costumes are simple and effective. (It's funny that she dresses Obron's fairy sidekick Puck (Larry Paulsen) like Smee in Peter Pan, with piratical striped stockings and headscarf.)

Collette Pollard's smart, stark forest set features towers of metal bars, through which we see the actual trees beyond, while the random chairs they sprout are used as fairy perches, or piled up to make thrones.

It may not be as ornate as some versions of Dream, but the  cleverness of this minimalist production makes us eager to see what SCS does next. (Read more)


  1. Don't forget that there's a Musical Saw in the play...sure to be a big hit with Santa Cruzans!!!

  2. That's right! I forgot to mention the musical saw! Thanks for reminding me, Bruce!