Again this summer, Midsommer Flight is doing Shakespeare in the park. The Bard’s romantic comedy of mistaken identities will be showcased on grassy stages around town. Last night, I saw it in Lincoln Park, nestled between Cafe Brauer and the zoo. We laid out the blankets, pulled out the wine, opened up the snacks and basked in Shakespeare al fresco.
Director Beth Wolf paces this tight. Actors are often running on and off stage to keep the frolic lively and engaging. At the heart of the story is the energetic Emily Demko (Rosalind in disguise) coaxing the dashing Eric Duhon (Orlando) to woo the Lady Rosalind. Meanwhile, the animated Charlee Cotton (Celia) unabashedly shows her annoyance with her cousin’s ruse. Demko acquires the unwanted affection of Alexis Randolph (Pheobe) much to Richard Eisloeffel’s (Silvius) chagrin. This is just a few threads of Shakespeare’s tangled web of complications and manipulations. Demko hilariously strikes a deal involving multiple weddings to unravel all the absurdities right before the satisfying conclusion.
AS YOU LIKE IT is the original rom-com but on steroids. It’s not about one couple. It’s about many couples. Midsommer Flight creates a fast-paced fury of courtships. The action rolls out with sound designed by Chicago. Some of the dialogue is hard to hear. It’s easy to get confused with the plethora of characters hooking up. It’s a good idea to arrive early and do a pre-show Wikipedia prep to know who’s who in the Forest of Ardenne within your Chicago park.
My recommendation is to go to this Midsommer Flight’s show. This IS as Shakespeare would like it. A troupe of actors performing on a makeshift stage for the locals. It was this very play, Shakespeare coined the phrase ‘all the world is a stage’. In this instance,the hard working ensemble are competing for attention with a dynamic Chicago backdrop. Bikers frequently divvy directly behind the stage. The laughter and music from the wedding reception at Cafe Brauer is an unexpected soundtrack. Even the dog at the next blanket becomes a distraction to the main show. Still, I loved the evening. It was Chicago. It was theatre. It was a perfect way to enjoy both.
Running Time: Ninety-five minutes with no intermission
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Beth Wolf
Saturdays at 6 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
Lincoln Park: July 9-10 and August 27-28, located on N. Stockton Drive behind the Lincoln Park Cultural Center at 2045 N. Lincoln Park West.
Touhy Park: July 16-17 and 23-24, 7348 N. Paulina St., in the southeast grove along Paulina St.
Schreiber Park: July 30-31 and August 6-7, 1552 W. Schreiber Ave., in the field at the corner of Bosworth Ave. and Schreiber Ave.
Gross Park: August 13-14 and 20-21, 2708 W. Lawrence Ave., at the north end of the park along Gunnison St.
Admission is free, Donations accepted
More information at www.midsommerflight.com
All photo credits are Zack Whittington
For more information and reviews on Chicago theatre, visit Theater in Chicago.