November and December seem, at first, an odd time to stage A Midsummer Night’s Dream
. It’s not just the play’s title that contributes to its air of endless summer: Shakespeare stocked his feverishly fanciful comedy with young lovers blind to anything but their own passions and trickster fairies with flowers sprouting from their scalps. But Midsummer
is also the Bard’s most fantastical play and one of his most accessible, and by that measure it fits with the season’s tendency for escapist holiday entertainment. Portland Center Stage’s entertaining production, directed by Oregon Shakespeare Festival veteran Penny Metropulos, plays up Midsummer
’s mischief without sacrificing warmth. In its first exchange, a pomaded Theseus informs Hermia of her fate—marry the dull Demetrius or clear off to the nunnery—with all the gleeful sliminess of a reality television host sending a contestant into a radioactive swamp. Seeming fueled more by practicality than passion, Hermia and beau Lysander (an appealing Ty Boice) decide to run away together. The entrance of Helena (Jenni Putney), who loves Demetrius even as he spurns her, injects the proceedings with a boozy shot of life: Putney portrays her character with intelligence, verve and convincing emotion. The staging is physically spirited and effective, and the parallel plot lines unfold enjoyably, if a bit comfortably. It’s no new wheel, but Metropulos and her talented cast provide the old one with plenty of grease.
128 NW 11th Ave.Website: www.pcs.org