If you’ve never spent a summer’s eve under the oaks at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum, you are missing out on a local treasure. This was my first visit to the enchanting outdoor theater, nestled in Topanga Canyon. Under a canopy of ancient oaks and a star flecked blanket of velvet night, this company of players delighted our contemporary assembly with their timeless production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
It’s difficult to imagine a more sublime setting. With direction by Melora Marshall and Willow Geer, the play makes full use of the stage, integrating the natural beauty of the night seamlessly into the stories unfolding in the forest. Michael McFall’s powerful Oberon and Melora Marshall’s graceful Tatania rule the fairy kingdom and upend the forest (and it’s visitors) as they battle over the possession of a human child. The magically, musical fairies and Samara Frame’s Puck, full of fire and fun, weave together the entanglements of the stories unfolding in the Athenian forest on this midsummer’s night.
Willow Geer’s turn as Helena is full, physical, funny and sweetly sad as she weeps and wonders “how happy some o’er other some can be.” Katherine Griffith’s Bottom is a hoot and a half! This is the perfect production for introducing young audiences to a “real” Shakespeare play. I was struck by how lovely it was to slow down a bit and sit, letting the poetry flood my mind without texting or Googling or recording every moment on my ipad. If you are too young to know what I’m talking about, I urge you to treat yourself to an evening of live theater, well played, under the stars. If you’re old enough to remember the joys of live entertainment, what are you waiting for?
A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues in rep with The Taming of the Shrew, The Royal Family, Merlin and Tone Clusters through September 29th. This year marks the 40th anniversary of The Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, which provides educational outreach to as many as 8,000 school kids annually in addition to special programming including Family FunDays, Peter Alsop’s Kid’s Koncerts, Creative PlayGround; Under the Oaks and a free reading series; Botanicum Seedlings: A Development Series for Playwrights.
Insider’s tip: rent the seat cushion ($1). There is a ton of leg room and the sight lines are excellent at this venue!