William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream is widely known as one of the most accessible works in the bard's canon for its clear plot and easy-to-follow characters. Chicago Shakespeare's current Short Shakes! presentation, which cuts the play down to a brisk 75 minutes, had children and adults alike cackling at the cast's energetic antics.
The entire ensemble is more than able, but the youngest in the crowd seemed to favor Adam Wesley Brown's hilarious Bottom - which leaned into the character's diva behaviors with a fantastic, modern feel - and Lane Anthony Flores' genuine and sweet Flute. Christiana Clark, who doubles as Hippolyta and Titania, is a masterful storyteller whose performance is equally commanding and nurturing. The adults in the audience were enthralled by Travis Turner's sarcastic Puck (and his gut-busting relationship with Oberon, played by Sean Fortunato) as well as Drew Shirley's unbelievably dry Starveling. This is the first production of Midsummer I've seen in which the player holder the lantern stole the play-within-the-play.
Jess McLeod's adaptation is swift, trimming the script down to only what is most necessary and generating a flow that keeps even the youngest eyes peeled in attention. It also must be noted that due to unforeseen circumstances, Daniel C. Brown performed the role of Lysander at opening (stepping in for Christopher Sheard). Brown was excellent and more than prepared, developing a wonderful chemistry with the other three lovers (Ally Carey as Helena, Andrew L. Saenz as Demetrius, and Faith Servant as Hermia).
William Shakespeare's Short Shakes! A Midsummer Night's Dream is truly Shakespeare for everyone, leaning into the best aspects of the text and showcasing a fantastic band of players. It'd be a production worth recommending regardless of the Short Shakes! tag - but hearing the sound of children tittering with laughter at something written over 400 years ago is pure theatrical magic.
Review by Jason Berger
Short Shakes! A Midsummer Night's Dream continues at CST through March 10. More info here.
The Hawk Chicago is included in TheatreinChicago's Review Round-Up.