A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Talented teen cast ventures into Shakespeare

An Italianate story in which “the course of true love never did run smooth” makes for mirth, merriment and mayhem in Venture Theater’s engaging production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

Venture sprinkles its own blend of magic on this time-honored comedy, running two more weekends.

The story is set in a 1970s disco and pays homage to music and stars from the ’50s and ’60s. Cher hair, skin-tight clothes, paisley and even a white dinner jacket appear on a bounty of precocious high school talent from throughout the region.

The rendering just might have made the bard smile.

Mace Archer directs the action which features one of Shakespeare’s most complicated blendings of elements. No less than four plots are in progress and Venture’s treatment pays homage to Shakespeare’s skill in plot manipulation.

So pull up a chair to one of the disco tables and let the magic take you away. These players dress the stage, using the building for all its worth – from the windows to the upper landing to the garage door, which opens and closes to let in the action. The players work the audience and wander through the house. You may find a player under your table.

Those who know the play recall that Oberon and Titania are king and queen of the fairies. Demetrius loves Hermia, and so does Lysander. And poor Helena is forsaken. But by magic and mistake, Lysander is tampered with. Then Demetrius loves Hermia and Lysander loves Helena. Or do they? Demetrius and Lysander love Helena, and Hermia is forsaken. Oh, well, finally, in Puck’s words, “Jack shall have Jill;/ Nought shall go ill.” You’ll just have a good time.

Throw in a poke at rustic drama with the Pyramus and Thisbe episode. Add the play-within-the-play as Peter Quince and crew struggle to please the royals with theatrical entertainment. Then witness the appearance of the Lion, Moonshine and Wall. And last but not least, there’s the wonderful character of Bottom, with all his endearing foolishness, preferring the role of tyrant to lover.

It’s engaging theater making creative use of a bare bones budget.

Playing Bottom, one of Shakespeare’s plum roles, is Matt Gowin, who possesses an unusual presence and maturity for his age. He and Archer even weave a take on Elvis into this creative rendering. It works.

As Lysander, Wayne Petro shines, and Josh Aaseng’s Demetrius understands the rhythm of the lines.

Playing king and conjurer Oberon is Jake Whittenberg, who endows his character with poetry and grace.

Heading the female cast is Kristina Carrol, who makes a nimbly appealing Puck, and Ashley Murray is a delightful Helena and Eileen Connors’ Titania is well cast. To make her character even richer, Sam Henry’s Hermia needs to lower her voice and slow her cadence.

But keep in mind that these actors are tackling a work normally performed by the seasoned best of the best.

The large cast holds no weak links, so we’re sorry space doesn’t allow mentioning everyone. But Venture’s admirable team spirit should prevent bruised egos. Kudos to all for well-spent elbow grease and some dazzling acrobatics. It’s a very physical production, from the agile go-go-dancers to an able production team. Bravo to Melinda Middleton’s period enhancing costumes and Tina Franzen’s clever set.

The many virtues of Venture include honing a love of language in young, aspiring actors and keeping the audience on its toes, with surprises and delights in the grandest of all theatrical traditions.