I bummed round the world in the '70s when I was still a teen. In India I came across a young man who was tall and thin with scraggly blond hair and beard. He was raised in Dutch Indonesia speaking Nederlands and an Indonesian dialect and taught himself English by reading the plays of William Shakespeare. He would greet me with a cheery, "How art thou?" It was strange and thrilling and wonderful to hear ancient words come so naturally to life.
Ancient English rarely sounds so alive and natural and flipping hilarious. When Puck tries to punk the humans and messes up, when the regal Titania falls in love with a jackass, when a cutesy clutzy Helena chases after a boy who is oblivious to her affections then runs the other way when he suddenly returns her affections, the show feels as fresh as an episode of Modern Family.
Usually, a Shakespearean play will have one or two stand-out actors who "get it" and you trust them and focus on them to follow the story. This entire cast is a joy. Director Penny Metropulos, who has been with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for 17 seasons, must be some kind of Brilliant Bardette.
Nick Bottom is ridiculous and full of himself and still somehow lovable like a character from Jersey Shore that you can watch without feeling cheap and dirty afterwards. The wall, paper moon, fretful playright, and an unintentionally bawdy lion get huge and well-deserved laughs. I've seen at least five productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream -- some very good ones -- but this is by far the best, and also the first time Puck's final apology for offending the audience made perfect sense.
Midsummer reminds us that life is an illusion, that humans are silly but mostly good hearted, that mysterious unseen forces can and will mess with you.
So laugh and enjoy the magic.