Story has plenty of unexpected twists and turns

Published in the November 7 – 20, 2018 issue of Morgan Hill Life

Photo by Marty Cheek * From left, Alexis Long as Hermia and Alex Topete as Lysander in South Valley Civic Theatre’s production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

“The course of true love never did run smooth …” in the Live Oak High School Drama Guild’s production of the wacky and wild romantic comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which opened Oct. 26 and closes Nov. 10.

In William Shakespeare’s fantasy-driven comedy, on a midsummer night, four young people of Athens find themselves wrapped in the dream-like arms of an enchanted forest where playful sprites lurk in a beautiful and strange fairyland.

Live Oak junior Lucy Kaelin plays the role of the bungler “Nick Bottom,” who by mischievous magic is transformed into a donkey by a fairy named “Puck,” played by Live Oak junior Becca Snook. The weaver enjoys a brief and comical romantic interlude with the fairy queen of the forest, whom Puck has entranced with a potion.

The story plot has plenty of unexpected twists and turns leading to the various love stories ending happily and a comical “play-within-a-play” that’s sure to warm the hearts of the audience, Kaelin said.

“There’s four lovers and they can’t be together at the beginning of the play,” she said. “And they get caught in this crazy argument in the woods. In the end it turns out happily ever after because it’s Shakespeare and it’s a comedy.”

The servant of the fairy king Oberon, Puck with his magic powers makes sure that every character eventually learns their lesson about the often contentious nature of love, Snook said.

“He really likes messing with people and, when so many things go wrong, that’s the best for him,” she said. “So while everyone is confused and trying to fix everything, I’m kind of like having fun in my character role.”

Photo by Marty Cheek
Cecilia Rojas, Lucy Kaelin, Elia Lasky, Arinn Styczynski, and Gitzelle Villa, rehearse before the opening of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

This story explores the issues of how humans connecting through the often  fickle emotion of attraction to other people, she said.

“It isn’t just about romantic love. It’s about every kind of love,” Snook said. “It’s about self-love, unrequited love, platonic love, family love. No matter who you are and what you’re going through, there’s something you can take away from the story — and have laugh while you’re going through that.”

Soraya Reyes, a Live Oak sophomore, designed the show’s set to present a darker and more mystical feel to the Athenian woods where much of the story takes place. She also worked on the performers’ costumes to give the show a mixture of 1850s Victorian England for the royals and fairies and a more modern style for the performers portraying the mechanicals who are the amateur actors preparing to perform a short play to entertain the duke and his bride on their wedding night.

“I’m trying to interpret and analyze the characters and show that best on stage,” she said. “(The mechanicals) are like a group of guys who have every day jobs, but they’re also like a group of community theater players. They think they’re really, really good actors but they’re not that great, and they believe so much in themselves that it’s just great.”

This is the second Shakespeare play Snook has performed in. Two years ago, Live Oak’s Drama Guild put on the Bard’s Scottish tragedy “Macbeth,” which has a considerably darker tone than the light-hearted “Midsummer Night’s Dream,” she said. “Macbeth” was really about the rise to power. “Dream” is more an argument among the characters on the nature of true love, she said.

“They’re trying to get together,” she said. “Some of them are trying to get people who don’t want them — and there are too many weddings happening at once. That’s Shakespeare comedy.”

Reyes worked closely with Andrew Cummings, the director, to show the various aspects of love.

“We found that there is something called true love, which we see with Lysander and Hermia, one of the main couples,” she said. “We also see love that has been tampered with when we see Demetrius and Helena, and that really shows you can also love a person in a fake way. With Theseus and Hippolyta, there’s a war going on and he marries her after conquering her people. She gives in for the good of her people but also because she’s starting to love him.”

Kaelin said the character Bottom also finds a weird kind of love through the transformative magic of the mischief-maker fairy.

“My good friend Puck decides she’s going to make even more mischief,” she said. “And at the command of Oberon, the fairy king, she squeezes a little love potion onto Tatiana, so that the first thing she sees she’ll fall in love with. Then Puck thinks, ‘Ah, that would be funny if I took a mortal and put a donkey head on him — and that’s the first thing that Titania sees. So that ends up being a whole romance in itself.”

Even though Puck literally makes an ass out of Bottom, the working man soon just goes with the flow of the unusual situation, she said.

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Bottom’s over-inflated ego helps bring comic relief to the tensions of the various romantic story-lines.

“He’s so fun. Bottom is pretty much the opposite of who I am personally, so it’s been a little bit of a challenge,” Kaelin said. “But sometimes Andrew will tell me to deliver a line that I never thought would work — and he’d burst out laughing. And I go, Yes! I did something right. It’s been really, really fun.”

Reyes enjoyed the creative experience of designing the set and costumes, although the job has taken considerable time because of all the details. She decided to explore the “darker themes” of the production, enabling her to go deeper into the characters and find the quirks and sparks of creativity of the actors.

“I’ve had so much help with my fellow cast members. They’ve been willing to try on a little something crazy,” she said. “This is a twisted version of Midsummer’s Night Dream, so them being willing to go with my funky design and ideas has really helped me take some chances.”

Marty Cheek

Marty Cheek

Publisher at Morgan Hill Life
Marty Cheek is the publisher of Morgan Hill Life and Gilroy Life. He is also the co-author with Congressman Jerry McNerney of the book Clean Energy Nation: Freeing America From the Tyranny of Fossil Fuels.
Email: marty@morganhilllife.com
Phone: (408) 782-7575
Marty Cheek