Although the setting wasn’t exactly the moonlit forest the Bard originally envisioned, the San Pedro Springs Park did make an ideal backdrop last weekend for the Playhouse’s summertime favorite — Playhouse in the Park. This year’s selection was A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Shakespeare rom-com that follows the travails of the lovers, actors, and fairies who call the forest, er, shaded park, home.
Greg Hinojosa directed the performance and utilized the cast of the fall 2007 Our Lady of the Lake University production, with OLLU drama faculty members (and local theater faves) Victor Treviño and Gypsy Pantoja playing Oberon and Titania (king and queen of the fairies), respectively. The chemistry between Victor and Pantoja is palpable. They play well off each other as they overtly flirt as husband and wife or as friend and foe, resulting in a soaking-wet Victor (a legion of camera-toting females captured his ripped bod in all its wet glory as he emerged from the park’s springs).
Victor, a 50-something drama buff, acts alongside his children Ashley and Eric (or as we dubbed them, the Treviño Family Troupe) in the play. In Midsummer, Ashley plays the role of Helena, who is in love with Demetrius (Matthew C. Ruiz), while big brother Eric is Lysander, whose heart belongs eternally (er, temporarily) to Hermia (Janelle Ross). The foursome are victims of love potions gone wrong. While on their way to elope, Lysander and Hermia take a nap and wake up in love with others (Lysander falls for Helena `Ashley and Eric always seem to flirt with incest in their performances; they played friends-turned-crush-material in last year’s OLLU production of The Shape of Things` and later in the play Demetrius falls for Hermia). Hermia is a bit of a drama queen with her glass-shattering screeches, but her hatred for Helena shines through gloriously as she kicks and screams in passion when she realizes her beau, Lysander, is in love with Helena.
Another victim of this potion is Bottom, an over-acting buffoon, played superbly by Juan Calderon. Bottom, a member of the acting troupe, is romanced by Titania thanks to a juice-filled magical flower that Oberon uses to cause her to fall in love with the first thing she sees, which happens to be Bottom, who dons a donkey-head mask at this first encounter.
Andrew Wainner, in the role of Puck, is one of the show-stealers; his acrobatic jumps and David Bowie-esque makeup make him half futuristic minion/half sideshow entertainment. Wainner jumps from slab to slab with ease and grace, capturing the playfulness and mischievous nature of his character. The youthful, energetic, and slightly creepy fairies frolicked pre-performance, as well as during the show, with painted hair and wings, and spoke in inaudible murmurs. The fairies were played by students who studied in an intensive Shakespeare training session led by the Vexler’s Eva Laporte and the Playhouse’s Christopher Rodriguez.
The setting for the performance was as bare-bones as it gets — three columns were set on the “stage,” with actors using minimal props. The make-up and costume choices clashed a bit; Pantoja and Victor were visions in a mythological dream, while the rest of the cast walked a fine line with being too contemporary, sporting multi-colored Chucks instead of subdued flats. (I could only assume this was due to the rocky terrain that was used as the main stage.)
When I attended this past Sunday, the performance drew a sizable crowd ranging in age and form (we were seated next to a cute little dog). With the exception of a few microphone issues, the show went off without a hitch. The audience would have gladly stayed if the play was longer, but once night fell the imaginary curtain was drawn, and we were left to walk back to our cars and out of the “woods.” •
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Playhouse in the Park)
Through August 10
San Pedro Springs Park
800 W. Ashby