Wednesday, February 7, 2018

REVIEW: Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Chicago Shakespeare Through 3/10/18

ChiIL Mama's Chi, IL Picks List: 
Family Friendly Theatre Fun

Abridgment brings Shakespeare’s enchanted comedy 
to students and families in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare, Through March 10th

Running Time: 75-minutes * Family Friendly

Puck (Travis Turner) surveys the enchanted world of Chicago Shakespeare’s abridged production of Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night’s Dream, adapted and directed by Jess McLeod, February 3–March 10, 2018 in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare. 
Photo by Liz Lauren.

Disclosure: Thanks to Chicago Shakespeare Theatre for partnering up with ChiIL Mama once again and providing complimentary tickets for review purposes and for our giveaway. As always, all opinions are our own.

Congrats to Maryellen C. who won 4 tickets (up to $136 value) 
To Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night’s Dream From ChiIL Mama Out Of 230 Entries. 
Check back with us early and often for great giveaways, original reviews, interviews, photo recaps, entertainment news, and more, in Chi, IL and beyond.

Hermia (Faith Servant) beams at her true love, Lysander (Christopher Sheard). 
Photo by Liz Lauren.

by Catherine Hellmann, Guest Critic

“The course of true love never did run smooth,” according to Lysander, one of the confused lovers in this charming production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. But this abridged version, at 75 minutes, does run smoothly and somehow does not feel like Shakespeare’s story is slighted in the least.

The show is intended to be very family-friendly, and it was encouraging to see so many children in the audience. In fact, the introduction by actress Christiana Clark reviews basic rules of etiquette for the young crowd, such as reminding viewers that this isn’t television, the actors can hear you. “So if a cell phone goes off over here, you open a bag of Doritos over there, or you are arguing over whether to watch the Super Bowl or the Puppy Bowl,” the actors hear it. (A cell phone kept buzzing, incredibly loudly, when I saw the play Nice Girl, last week at Raven Theater. Perhaps more grown-ups need this refresher course, too.) She also encouraged audience positive feedback because “your reactions fuel our performance.” One of my favorite moments in the show was when Bottom threw his arms wide while in “rehearsal” for the play-within-a-play of Pyramus and Thisbe. In a bit of physical comedy, he hit “Thisbe” twice, and a little kid in the audience kept giggling, showing how Shakespeare can be accessible for all.

Bottom (Adam Wesley Brown ) takes center stage as The Mechanicals assign roles for their upcoming theatrical performance.
Photo by Liz Lauren.

Midsummer is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, ever since my teen years when I was in a community theater production as Hippolyta. It was amazing how fresh and clever this production is and how the cast elicits laughs in unexpected places. The “amateur theatrical troupe of local workers” rehearsing and performing their ridiculous play for the finale was especially funny. When their roles are assigned by Peter Quince, they obviously had no idea what the play was about, and it was delightful to watch their comfort levels grow into the roles. The “lion” is extremely shy and timid as a kitty initially, but by the end, she is roaring at random and enjoying startling people. Adam Wesley Brown as Bottom is appropriately over-the-top from the get-go; his performance is just a hoot, especially his overly dramatic death scene as Pyramus, which rivals any opera diva’s demise.

Playful Puck (Travis Turner) delights in creating mischief.
 Photo by Liz Lauren.

Many of the actors doubled up on their roles. Ms. Clark and Sean Fortunato have a great chemistry as both Duke Theseus and his bride, then the fairy world’s Oberon and Titania.(Their costumes in the fairy world were especially cool, as Titania arms seemed to be covered in bark like the limbs on a tree. Bottom gets a cape to wear covered in flowers which had been Tatiana’s blanket during her long slumber.)  After the performance, there was a question-answer session with the cast. A child asked if it is hard to play two roles. The actor replied that it is fun to be someone else, and in this show, they got to do that twice.

The king and queen of the fairies, Oberon (Sean Fortunato) and 
Titania (Christiana Clark) come face to face. 

Photo by Liz Lauren.

My teen companions loved the show, and I asked them their favorite parts. Our friend Camelia liked the physical comedy, like when there was a reference to Helena’s tall stature, and the actress, who was already on a high rock, threw her arms up to be even taller. My daughter Savannah liked the sound effect of the magical droplet being placed by Puck into sleeping eyes. A young audience member asked why all the characters at the end got married. Lysander replied simply:”Because they were in love.”

Hermia (Faith Servant) and Helena (Ally Carey) rejoice.
Photo by Liz Lauren.

You will simply love this abbreviated version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Take your kids and go see it. Or borrow someone else’s kids and go see it. For “reason and love keep little company these days.”

Chi, IL LIVE Shows On Our Radar:

Here at ChiIL Mama and ChiIL Live Shows we've been fervent fans of Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) for so many decades we've seen them perform A Midsummer Night’s Dream in it's entirety and as a Short Shakespeare 75-minute abridgment, several times over the years. Each production is fresh and new, and this 2018 version is extra exciting, because it's the first Shakespeare play to be performed in their new space, The Yard! Never fear, despite it's name, The Yard is indoors, heated, and awesome. 

Public Performance Dates:
Saturday, February 3, 2018 – 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 10, 2018 – 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 17, 2018 – 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 24, 2018 – 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 3, 2018 – 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, March 10, 2018 – 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.

For more information, visit

Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare, Saturdays at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., February 3–March 10, 2018. Tickets are on sale now for $22–$34 (subject to change). For more information or to purchase tickets, contact Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s Box Office at 312.595.5600 or visit the Theater’s website at

CST strives to make its facility and performances accessible to all patrons through its Access Shakespeare programs. Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night’s Dream will have an Audio-Described Performance on Saturday, February 17 at 11:00 a.m. and an Open-captioned and ASL Duo-interpreted Performance on Saturday, February 24 at 11:00 a.m.

An enchanted Titania (Christiana Clark) is overcome with desire for Bottom (Adam Wesley Brown), who has been transformed into an ass by a spell. 
Photo by Liz Lauren.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) presents Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night’s Dream —a 75-minute abridgment of William Shakespeare’s riotous tale of mismatched love among mischievous fairies, young lovers, and an amateur theatrical troupe. Directed and adapted by Jess McLeod and featuring a power-packed ensemble cast, this production will bring the magic to life for more than 1,000 students each day in the innovative, new venue The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare during its six-week run. 

Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be performed for the public on Saturdays February 3–March 10, 2018 at 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. After each performance, the actors remain on stage for a question-and-answer session before joining the audience in the Lobby for one-on-one conversation and photo opportunities. 

This year, Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night’s Dream will have an extended run in The Yard, allowing thousands of additional students and families to engage with this education program. The Yard will be configured as an intimate thrust stage, with audiences surrounding the stage on three sides and runway aisles for actor entrances and exits. 

Jess McLeod makes her Chicago Shakespeare debut with Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night’s Dream, although her work has reached thousands of audiences as resident director of Chicago’s Hamilton. In 2016, she was awarded the Michael Maggio Fellowship by Goodman Theatre and has directed at a range of local theatres including Victory Gardens, Haven Theatre, and Steppenwolf’s Next Up! Program. McLeod is also a teaching artist at Storycatcher’s Theatre and a program manager for the annual “Louder Than a Bomb” youth poetry festival.

The Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night’s Dream cast features Adam Wesley Brown (Bottom, through March 18), Ally Carey (Helena), Christiana Clark (Titania/Hippolyta), Richard Costes (Snout/Fairy), Lane Anthony Flores (Flute/Fairy), Sean Fortunato (Oberon/Theseus), Jeremy Peter Johnson (Bottom, beginning March 19), Jarett King (Egeus/Quince), Andrew L. Saenz (Demetrius), Faith Servant (Hermia), Christopher Sheard (Lysander), Drew Shirley (Starveling), Hannah Starr (Snug/Fairy), and Travis Turner (Puck).

Collaborating with Jess McLeod to transform The Yard into an enchanted forest setting is Scenic Designer Lauren Nigri, Costume Designer Izumi Inaba, Lighting Designer Greg Hofmann, Sound Designer Mikhail Fiksel, Wig and Make-up Designer Richard Jarvie, Fight Choreographer Jerry Galante, Verse Coach Kathryn Walsh, and Assistant Director Héctor Alvarez.

Chicago Shakespeare’s Short Shakespeare! Series is rooted in the Theater’s steadfast commitment to young audiences, which has resulted in one in four audience members being age 18 or under. Chicago Shakespeare partners with teachers to extend the experience into the classroom, providing show-specific materials and activities in addition to leading free professional development workshops for teachers.

Adam Wesley Brown as Bottom and Christiana Clark as Titania. 
Photo by Bill Burlingham.

Coming Soon 2/21-4/15:
ChiIL Mama will be ChiILin' at Chicago Shakespeare Theater for the press opening of Schiller's Mary Stuart, so check back soon for my full review at 

A global theatrical force, Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) is known for vibrant productions that reflect Shakespeare’s genius for storytelling, musicality of language, and empathy for the human condition. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Barbara Gaines and Executive Director Criss Henderson, Chicago Shakespeare has redefined what a great American Shakespeare theater can be, putting forward a company that delights in the unexpected and defies theatrical category. A Regional Tony Award-winning theater, CST produces acclaimed plays at its home on Navy Pier, throughout Chicago’s schools and neighborhoods, and on stages around the world. In 2017, the Theater unveiled a new stage, The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare. Together with the Jentes Family Courtyard Theater and the Thoma Theater Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare, The Yard positions CST as the city’s most versatile performing arts venue.

Disclosure: Thanks to Chicago Shakespeare Theatre for partnering up with ChiIL Mama once again and providing complimentary tickets for review purposes and for our giveaway. As always, all opinions are our own.

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