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THEATER: Ventura County

Power Outage Suitable for 'Midsummer' Setting

July 02, 1998|ROBIN RAUZI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Shakespeare under the stars turned into Shakespeare by flashlight Friday night in Thousand Oaks.

The two young couples in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" had just finished their wedding vows on the outdoor stage at Cal Lutheran's Kingsmen Park when a power outage knocked out the lighting and sound systems.

Ah, but the show must go on.

The plucky cast and crew from the Santa Susana Repertory Company quickly hung lanterns on the sides of the stage and planted people with flashlights in the front row. Perhaps some things were lost in the dim light. But something was gained: the realization that perhaps we've gone too far. We've made outdoor theater too much like the indoor variety.

This is not to detract from the efforts of the Kingsmen Shakespeare Festival--a combined effort from Cal Lutheran and the Santa Susana Rep. Although not distinctive, the production was filled with the frolicking and antics expected of an outdoor "Midsummer." The mood of the whole park was jovial. Children wandered about--but a remarkable number stayed put.

Mark Blankfield--making a return appearance in the role he played last summer--in particular keeps the laughs rolling as the weaver-turned-actor Bottom. Even with a mask of an ass head covering his face, Blankfield entertains. As the impish Puck, Jeff Wallach unfortunately lets his hysterics get in the way of his acting. Lines and meaning are lost as he flits about the stage.

As Theseus, Niall Padden sets the standard for delivery of verse in the first scene. No one else quite measures up. As the suitors Lysander and Demetrius, Brett Elliott and Derek Medina make handsome and likable Athenians. Blond bombshell Helena (J.J. Rodgers) starts off pouty, but gets funnier as the play progresses and she has to get more assertive. Deborah Levin's Hermia fades a bit into the background compared to the aggressive characters around her.

"Midsummer" does not have a particularly intricate plot, and director Lane H. Davies keeps the sections with the lovers moving along. The fairies, however, cause the show to drag with their songs and dances. And somehow in the distraction of Puck and the fairies, the conflict between Oberon (Terry Lester) and Titania (Ruth Cordell)--the catalyst for the whole romantic mix-up--gets lost.

The theme for the costumes by George T. Mitchell is clear enough: The fairies wear feathers, the Athenians short skirts. Either way, there's a lot of skin showing. Oberon's raven-dark cape might be more evocative in lighting that is less bright and flat (until it went away altogether); it is the woods at night, after all. But Titania's turquoise feather bikini seems only fitting for a Las Vegas showgirl.

The music by John Garrick was a mixed bag. The small sound effects that accompanied the casting of spells was a nice detail. The music that went over the dialogue, however, was a distraction. And in both cases, the use of a synthesizer was a poor choice because the artificial tones conflicted with the naturalness of the setting.

Mike Roehr's set was well-designed structurally. Its many levels and entrances kept the action varied and the scene changes swift. The fabric backdrop, however, left much to be desired--though it did look better by lantern light.

BE THERE

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" at Kingsmen Park, California Lutheran University, 60 W. Olsen Road, Thousand Oaks. Tonight, Friday and July 12, 17 and 18. 8 p.m. Park open for picnicking at 5:30 p.m. Free festival seating. $20 for reserved seats. (805) 493-3415.

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