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The Sacramento Shakespeare Festival kicked off its 25th year with "A Midsummer Night's Dream," directed by David Harris, and the result is a great retelling of an old story.
The production is set in 1890s bohemian Athens -- with liberties taken, such as with the costumes -- and incorporates absinthe into the mix. A beautifully lit set, designed by Stephen Jones, illustrates characters' lives in and out of the dream.
The action moved along at a good pace, but raucous music from a birthday party across the street dampened the evening's energy.
The first act was a bit sluggish and the timing off, but the actors found their footing after the intermission. The gags were quick, witty and well executed, the characters locked into their arcs and the finale was marked by laughter.
Highlights of the production were Jes Gonzales as an uproarious Bottom/Pyramus, Julian Sandoval as a deep-throated Flute/Thisbe and young Will Block as an ebullient Robin Goodfellow/Puck/Philostrate. But the biggest treat in the play was Jenna Cedusky as Helena, bringing vigor and slapstick to her role as the tall lover.
An addition to the show was live music played by portrait faeries who seemed more like opium fiends than flittering pixies. While the four original pieces written by Zach Sapunor for the show tied in nicely, it felt like the actors could have used more time to get comfortable with the songs.
A couple of strange choices in the production: an oddly hyperactive John Reilly as Theseus and the king of the faeries, Oberon. The role was played by Rick Eldridge, who had a "Twilight"-like sparkle to his chest.
MAX'S RATING: A LAUGH, A GUFFAW AND A RUDE MECHANICAL.
The play runs through July 31, with "Othello" on alternate nights. For more information, visit here