Finally ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ that won’t give you Nightmares!

By Ernest Kearney  —  A Midsummer Night’s Dream ( at A Noise Within thru Nov. 12) is one of the most underrated, and in some ways misunderstood, of all the Bard’s plays in the sense that it is a bold pronouncement of the dominant theme that will blacken the darkest of his tragedies while barely whispering the prevailing theme which will stalk his major works for the rest of his career.

The “pronouncement” is Shakespeare’s belief that there is a vast unseen realm of spirits and forces that can influence or deceive the efforts of man for their own devising.  This element first appeared in The Comedy of Errors with its suspicions of witchery at play in the land.

Shakespeare will return to the hazard of these hidden powers in Julius Caesar, Hamlet, King Lear and Macbeth.  But it won’t be until his valedictorian The Tempest that he approaches the issue with the boldness shown in Midsummer.

The “whisper” is the conflict of father and child, obvious in the Hal/Henry plays, —Hamlet and King Lear and if one scratches the skin it can be found in nearly every work to come.

In Midsummer’s Egeus, proclaiming the right to demand the death of his disobedient child, there is the spark that will blaze in Hamlet and Othello.

Kasey Mahaffy. Photo by Craig Schwartz

Midsummer is the point at which the son of a leatherworker from the sticks begins the evolution into William Shakespeare.

Directors Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and Geoff Elliott’s Midsummer, onstage at A Noise Within, is a brick-solid production that manages to tag all the bases – it is beautifully staged, thoroughly entertaining, and superbly eloquent in its accessibility.

This last issue is not to be dismissed lightly when dealing with Shakespeare’s most-produced play as lesser talents tend to bury confusion over the text beneath an Everest worth of Vaudevillian antics.

The directors build this praiseworthy staging with a sharp attention to detail, as the right pinch of spice adds body to a stew.  After Theseus (Zach Kenney) proclaims their approaching nuptials to “fair Hippolyta” (Trisha Miller) a court functionary hands her the “official response” to read.  (She is a prisoner of war, you know.) Helena (Jeanne Syquia) is a bit of a hypochondriac. The levels of the playing area shift to surprise the audience’s senses, while a judicious use of color teases their eye.  

Robert Oriol has done a tidy job of revamping the play’s lovely ditties to a tad more modern tempo and Angela Balogh Calin has a field day with the costumes. (though I would have modified that asshead.)

From the quartet of the hapless young Athenian lovers Syquia’s Helena and Riley Shanahan’s Lysander snatch the best moments. 

Frederick Stuart, a standout in ANW’s Book of Will, is a standout here as Bottom with a nuance and wisely understated performance. 

Miller and Kenney, the sovereigns of the Athenian court, do double duty as Titania and Oberon the fairy world power couple, and do royally by both pairings. 

And Kasey Mahaffy is very pleasing as the production’s punkish Puck.

All in all, ANW has given us A Midsummer Night’s Dream worthy of seeing whatever the season.


A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Noise Within

3352 E. Foothill Blvd.

Pasadena, CA 91107

Thru November 12

For Tickets and Additional Information click HERE.

Written by

An award-winning L.A. playwright and rabble-rouser of note who has hoisted glasses with Orson Welles, been arrested on three continents and once beat up Charlie Manson. His first play, "Among the Vipers" was a semi-finalist in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition and was featured in the Carnegie-Mellon Showcase of New Plays. It was produced at the NPT Theater in Ashland, Oregon and Los Angeles’ celebrated Odyssey Ensemble Theatre. His following play, “The Little Boy Who Loved Monsters” was produced at The Hollywood Actors Theater, where he earned praise from the Los Angeles Times for his “…inordinately creative writing.” The play went on to numerous other productions including Berlin’s The Black Theatre under the direction of Rainer Fassbinder who wrote in his program notes of Kearney, “He is a skilled playwright, but more importantly he is a dangerous one.” Ernest Kearney has worked as literary manager or as dramaturge for among others The Hudson Theater Guild, Nova Diem and the Odyssey Ensemble Theatre, where he still serves on the play selection committee. He has been the recipient of two Dramalogue Awards and a finalist or semi-finalist, three times, in the Julie Harris Playwriting Competition. His work has been performed by Michael Dunn, Sandra Tsing Loh, Jack Colvin and Billy Bob Thornton, and to date, either as playwright or director, he has upwards of a hundred and thirty productions under his belt, including a few at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater as puppeteer. Kearney remains focused on his writing, as well as living happily ever after with his lovely wife Marlene. His stage reviews and social essays can be found at and Follow him on Facebook.

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