Aaron Latterell and Sonia Goldberg in Oak Park Festival Theater's A Midsummer Night's Dream | Josh Darr

Oak Park Festival Theater’s current production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a blend of magic, love and playfulness. Shakespeare’s beloved 1595 comedy retains all its charm in this nimble outdoor production in Austin Gardens, directed by Festival’s new artistic director, Peter G. Anderson.

Theater in this community took a terrific blow during the pandemic. It feels wonderful to be back in Austin Gardens once again enjoying a young, agile company presenting such a captivating night of merriment. This light-hearted fare brought much laughter to the opening night audience.

Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s most popular and widely performed comedies. The play revolves around the adventures of four young Athenian lovers, a group of performers who plan to present a play for a royal wedding, plus the meddling acts of a gaggle of fairies who inhabit the forest outside Athens.

Evan Frank’s scenic design is impressive but I would advise sitting directly center front. I sat a bit stage left and was often distracted by lots of backstage activity, which was clearly in view.

Janelle Smith, costume designer, dons the cast in contemporary attire. For those unfamiliar with this play, it might have been helpful if the different groups (mechanicals, fairies, etc.) had initially been dressed like their associates rather than having the entire company wear the same thing.

The troupe is lively and intrepid. Aaron Latterall plays Oberon, Sonia Goldberg is Hippolyta, Will Wilhelm enlivens Puck, and Lucas Prizant is Helena.

The play is entertaining and lively with a series of interconnecting plots. The fun has been multiplied by the trendy mix and matching of the male/female roles.

Lysander (Taylor Dalaton) loves his girlfriend Hermia (Rachel Jones). They want to marry but her father won’t consent, ordering her to marry Demetrius (Julio Cesar Gutierrez).

The four young lovers stumble into an enchanted forest where the merriment immediately begins to unfold. There a group of amateur actors rehearse a play-within-a-play to celebrate an upcoming royal wedding. As Nick Bottom, Molly Brennan gives fine readings, well-enunciated.

The wedding celebration features Bottom’s troupe performing a play within the play of the ill-fated, yet farcical romance of Pyramus and Thisbe.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a warm, exuberant celebration of the transformational power of love. Comedy accompanies the intertwining stories of four lovers, a group of amateur actors, and the fairies who manipulate them for their own entertainment.

Ian Tierney is assistant director. August Forman provided the line-by-line script captions projected above the action throughout the performance.

Festival Theatre’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is fast and fun. It never feels like a museum piece. As a series of interconnecting plots, the show opens fresh new turf. 

This production will be presented beneath the treetops in Austin Gardens, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 7 p.m., just steps from downtown Oak Park, through Aug. 19.

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Doug Deuchler has been reviewing local theater and delving into our history for Wednesday Journal for decades. He is alsoa retired teacher and school librarian who is also a stand-up comic, tour guide/docent...