On a summer’s night, there’s no delight quite like Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” especially when performed in a magical outdoor venue.
The Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles (SCLA) has created a win-win production. Not only is the audience treated to laugh-out-loud fun and seriously great comedic acting, but in addition to staging the play in the Japanese Garden on the grounds of the West L.A. Veterans Healthcare Center, veterans from all branches of service are engaged in technical and front-of-house jobs.
Now in its 26th year, SCLA has given us a truly enchanted evening about an enchanted evening during which “Some Enchanted Evening” is actually sung on stage! There’s live music, and not only do the actors appear in multiple roles, they’re also the musicians and singers.
The mark of a terrific Shakespeare production is the ability of the actors to take centuries-old language and breathe fresh life into it. This cast of actors does that masterfully.
Returning Royal Shakespeare Co. director Kenn Sabberton has taken eight actors and morphed them into 22 characters, ranging from royal and earthly lovelorn Athenians to good-natured but loutish actor wannabes, plus an entire world of fairy kings, queens and sprites. It’s a truly remarkable — and no doubt exhausting — enterprise.
I marveled at the dynamic direction, and the skill of the actors, shifting seamlessly from one group of characters to the next.
How it all resolves is what makes “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” one of Shakespeare’s most beloved and satisfying comedies.
There are some hilarious classic slapstick shticks, much climbing on trees, poles and scaffolding along with some terrific vocal gymnastics; especially as the four young lovers swiftly shift to become the fairies and just as adeptly inhabit the personae of the clueless workmen.
This is a really topnotch Shakespearean experience.
On a personal note, my father spent his last months in the nursing home on that very same West L.A. VA campus, so visits there are often fraught with emotion for me. This visit, however, was charmed.
I’m especially moved that Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles has created its Veterans Summer Employment Program. Last year, veterans comprised 44 percent of the entire company’s workforce. Then there are all the complimentary tickets available to active military personnel, veterans, their caregivers and family members.
If you, a friend or family member are affiliated with the military, please let them know about this offer and plan to see one of the summer’s highlights. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” runs at the Japanese Garden, adjacent to the Brentwood Theatre on the grounds of the VA campus, Tuesday through Sunday evenings at 8 p.m. Bring a pre-show picnic, gates open at 6:30 p.m., showtime’s at 8 p.m. Visit www.shakespearcenter.org or call (800) 838-3006.
Once again “Shine,” bright stories of positive change, takes place tonight, July 18, at 7:30 p.m. at the YWCA Santa Monica/Westside, 2019 14th St. This monthly storytelling series features pros and amateurs who share inspiring true stories; tonight’s theme is “Family Vacation” and a featured storyteller is Hal Ackerman, author of “Write Screenplays that Sell…The Ackerman Way.” More details at (310) 452-2321 or www.StoriesBloom.com/ Suggested donation $5 to $10.
If dinner and a story sounds like a dream date, join the long-running literary salon, “Spoken Interludes.” Since 1996, actress, producer and hostess DeLauné Michel has been creating a literary dinner party by bringing best-selling and up-and-coming writers together to read their own work at different area restaurants.
The evening begins with socializing and a buffet dinner from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., with readings from 7:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Featured writers include award-winning best-seller Robert Crais, who reads from his new novel, “Suspect.” And award-winning and best-selling funnywoman Merrill Markoe reads from her new book, “Calm, Cool & Contentious.”
It takes place Monday, July 22 at Il Cielo Restaurant in Beverly Hills. Reserve online at http://spokeninterludes.com/ or bring $35 to the door.
The Los Angeles Children’s Theatre brings a fun, interactive production of “Hansel and Gretel” starting on Saturday, July 20, and running at 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 25. Performances take place at The Little Theatre, 12420 Santa Monica Blvd., West Los Angeles, 90025. Great for all audiences ages 3 and up. Tickets are $10 and available online at the theater website, www.theblackboxtheater.org or call (310) 622-4482. Cash and checks only accepted at the door.
Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She has also reviewed theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.