Weekends in the Park With Will

Review: Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks’ A Midsummer Night’s Dream

By MAC Hoover

“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lulled in these flowers with dances and delight”

This might not have been the exact location description, but it wasn’t too far from the lovely venue in Frick Park, where we were treated to William Shakespeare’A Midsummer Nights’s Dream. Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks deftly handled this complex comedy by the Bard himself, and a good time was shared by all. 

There is something special about sitting outdoors watching a performance of skilled actors whose enthusiasm and love of the subject are evident with every turn of phrase and facial expression. The intimate setting provided a unique ability to share the subtle nuance of an eye roll or grimace that an audience rarely notices. It helped, for sure, that the weather was perfectly cast for our performance. 

Cornel Gabara as Puck

The casting for this unique play was terrific. Everyone meshed seamlessly to present a lovely emulsion of the several themes and stories embedded in this comedy. I have to admit, my preconceived expectation of Puck was more sprite-like. The interpretation by Cornel Gabara was more like a put-upon cranky Keebler Elf…and it was terrific. Catherine Baird was outstanding as the confused Hermia. Harper York was wonderful as Lysander and was quick to change allegiances to their love interest. No one can act like they are overacting like Stoney Richards as Bottom/ Pyramus. Matt Henderson is learning to follow in those footsteps in his three roles. Tracey D.Turner, as Titania/Hippolyta, has a most beautiful rich voice and carriage, not to be outdone by her wicked side-eye. Bob Colbert’s, Quince (I noticed the tee shirt), the man in charge of the Mechanicals and Cobweb the fairy, was engaging with a great singing voice. I’m sure Pink Floyd would have appreciated the musical talents of musical director Matt Calvetti’s Snout/ Wall / Moth. 

The characters changed roles quickly and efficiently, aided by Ricky Lyle‘s creative and colorful costumes. The act changes were smartly segued by some classic rock play-throughs. As I was writing this, it dawned on me that I was privy to the show’s first performance. It seemed to run effortlessly and smoothly, and an obliging dog even barked on cue to the command “speak.” 

I could continue to espouse the many interpretations of this often performed work, but it’s best to experience it yourself. Don’t miss this labor of love. The mission of this company is to bring high-quality FREE Shakespeare to the Pittsburgh community and to encourage the enjoyment and preservation of our Public Parks. 

Jennifer Tober has another hit INTO the Parks with this her eighteenth season. Kudos to the behind-the-scenes staff and volunteers as well.  

This blend of performance art in precious public places will continue every weekend in September:

  • Sat and Sun Sept 3-4 at 2pm in Frick Park
  • Sat and Sun Sept 10-11 at 2 pm in Highland Park
  • Sat and Sun Sept 17-18 at 2 pm in Westinghouse Park
  • Fri Sept 23 at 6 pm in Schenley Plaza
  • Sat and Sun Sept 24-25 at 2 pm in Frick Park

Admission is free, donations gratefully accepted. Bring a chair or a blanket.



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