The DJ and Keyboards were the always-on-display musicians center stage, yet it was the stage right trumpeter (Angelina Ortiz) breathing heavy into her horn to signify changing winds that put such a bright spotlight on the sound design and other stagecraft charms of DREAM (Sound Design: Joseph E. Disbrow). She perched on a high stand in the middle of the motley Chicago crowd scattered on blankets and chairs in Chinatown’s Ping Tom Memorial Park. It was the very last performance of this year’s Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks. Heads turned — especially those of the many young children in the crowd — to look to the wind sound. This observer imagined that these youngest patrons were happily inhaling Shakespeare and theater for their very first time.
Shakespeare In the Parks Adaptation is Fast-Paced and Energetic
Starting and laced throughout with Puck’s hip-hop-style rap, this was an updated presentation of the Bard’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The ensemble ran out as Puck’s opening rap began. They dance on all three sides of the thrust stage, singing along and telegraphing this rendition of the classic with high octane energy.
Most of the actors did double duty, with super-talent Breon Arzell doing three. The character swaps were mostly signaled by quick changes of capes. The tale of Gods toying with humans, magic making mortals fall in and out of love in literal snaps, a Fairie Queen falling in love with an ass, and a play within a play, were all there—though this writer very much doubts that if you didn’t already know the story you would be able to follow it.
Then again, who cared? With circus flourishes lacing this throughout, and talent flashes aplenty, the cast didn’t seem too troubled by their lack of a coherent script adaptation. It was more a question to this reviewer of whether the many children in the audience were most smitten by Micah Figueroa when he spoke his Demetrius lines as he balanced on a gymnast’s ball, or when he donned a mule head to be Bottom. Or, maybe it was when he got into a tumbling battle with fellow gymnast-powered actor Deanna Myers? The spontaneous applause for the graceful Yin He dancers wafting colorful scarves signaled it was an especially huge crowd pleaser moment for this Chinatown audience.
Even in the super-fast pace of the story-telling, Arzell found a way to add a layer of wickedly subversive comedy by giving King Oberon the accent and demeanor of a White Southern plantation owner. How fun, you’d likely agree—and more, how true to the family entertainment genre, where both parents and children find much to enjoy, though they are likely getting jazzed at different moments.
Shakespeare diehards should be forewarned that DREAM, like other Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks performances, isn’t really for them. This is classic family fun brought to you by Chicago Shakespeare Theater in collaboration with the Chicago Park District and corporate sponsors. Free and accessible—you too might agree with this Chicagoan reviewer that these are clearly tax dollars well spent.
This year’s Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks has now officially ended. Bookmark the Chicago Shakespeare Theater website to keep track of future performances summer of 2022.
Creative Facilitators: CRUZ GONZALEZ-CADEL, CAGE SEBASTIAN PIERRE, and PAIGE WHITSON-MARTINI
Original Music: JORIAH KWAMÉ
Scenic Design: FULTON STREET COLLECTIVE
Costume Design: GREGORY GRAHAM
Sound Design: JOSEPH E. DISBROW
Music Facilitator: PABLO DAVID LAUCERICA
Verse Coach: LARRY YANDO
Casting: BOB MASON
Production Stage Manager: LIZ ANNE LARSEN
Theseus/Oberon/Snug: BREON ARZELL
The Changeling Boy: BRASSEL CHANEY
Puck: DANIELLE DAVIS
Demetrius/Bottom: MICAH FIGUEROA
DJ: DJ JEREMY HEIGHTS
Fairy: RAVEN LEWIS
Enchantments: HANA LIU
Hermia/Flute: ASHLYN LOZANO
Electric Guitar: ISAIAH MARTINEZ
Enchantments: JANICE MEI
Lysander/Quince: DEANNA MYERS
Trumpet: ANGELINA ORTIZ
Percussion: TAINA RAMÍREZ
Soloist–Hip Hop: ME’LO THE GENERATION HERO
Helena/Titania: MJ D RAWLS
Piano: ADRIAN RUIZ
Percussion: MARÍA SARANGO
Enchantments: ANGELA TAM
Fairy: MARY THOMAS
Soloist–Vocal/Flautist: ALEXIS WILLIS
Enchantments: JESSICA ZHANG
Photos: Liz Lauren
About the Author: Amy Munice
Amy Munice is Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher of Picture This Post. She covers books, dance, film, theater, music, museums and travel. Prior to founding Picture This Post, Amy was a freelance writer and global PR specialist for decades—writing and ghostwriting thousands of articles and promotional communications on a wide range of technical and not-so-technical topics.
Amy hopes the magazine’s click-a-picture-to-read-a-vivid-account format will nourish those ever hunting for under-discovered cultural treasures. She especially loves writing articles about travel finds, showcasing works by cultural warriors of a progressive bent, and shining a light on bold, creative strokes by fledgling artists in all genres.