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December 5, 2007 > Irvington sparkles with A Midsummer Night's Dream

Irvington sparkles with A Midsummer Night's Dream

By Jay Coleman

Long before there were Desperate Housewives, William Shakespeare wrote "A Midsummer Night's Dream" - a romantic comedy that offered its own blend of inter-related love interests, deception, treachery and a large dose of good humor. There's even a moonlit forest that rivals Wisteria Lane for its hidden secrets and comic mishaps.

The Irvington Conservatory Theatre brings Shakespeare's classic play to life weekends through Dec. 9 at the Valhalla Theatre on the campus of Irvington High School.

Long-time director Linda Jackson-Whitmore has assembled a lively cast of players to portray the adventures of four young Athenian lovers, a group of amateur actors, their interactions with the Duke and Duchess of Athens, and with fairies who live in the glittery forest.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" opens Duke Theseus (Aaron Banner) of Athens and the Amazon queen Hippolyta (VernaLee James) preparing for their marriage and accompanying entertainment. Enter Hermia (Elizabeth Nye), who refuses to follow her father Egeus's (Clay Malzkuhn) demand that she marry Demetrius (Kenta Naoi). Responding to his daughter, Egeus quotes an ancient Athenian law that says a daughter must marry whomever her father chooses or live a nun's life. Hermia's only option is to elope, sneaking through the dark forest - magically created by scenic designer Fred Alim - with her lover Lysander (Daniel Garcia). Hermia tells her best friend, Helena (Sophie Hasset), who once was engaged to Demetrius, but later jilted. Helena decides to win back his favor by revealing the plan to Demetrius.

Meanwhile, Oberon (Brett Jensen), king of the fairies, and his queen, Titania (Katie O'Brien), arrive in the forest outside Athens. Titania plans to stay there until after attending the wedding of Duke Theseus and Hippolyta. Oberon and Titania are estranged because Titania refuses to give her Indian servant to Oberon to use as his "knight." Oberon counters by recruiting the mischievous Puck (Tuti Lamanavannucci) to apply a magical juice that makes the victim fall in love with the first living thing he sees when he awakens. Oberon wants Titania to fall in love with a forest creature instead. When Puck applies the potion to the wrong person, a comedy of errors begins.

Amid all this commotion and confusion, a band of lower-class laborers prepare to perform a crude play for Theseus' wedding, and they enter the forest for their rehearsal. Trouble maker Puck spots Nick Bottom (Trevor Comin), a stage-struck weaver, and transforms his head into that of a donkey. Titania wakes up from Puck's potion and falls in love immediately with Bottom.

Ultimately, Oberon gets the servant boy, Puck spreads the love potion to Lysander and the Athenian lovers return to Athens for the group wedding of Demetrius and Helena, and Lysander and Hermia. After the wedding, Bottom and the laborers perform their crude and ridiculous play, which offers laugh-out-loud performances by several cast members in the play-within-the-play. And, in the end, like a Desperate Housewives narrator, Puck gets the last word.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" can be an ambitious undertaking for a high school troupe, and Irvington's cast of nearly three dozen young actors turns in a credible and fun performance.

Tickets can be ordered online at or by calling (510) 656-5711, ext. 46423.

A Midsummer Night's Dream
Friday Dec 7 and Saturday, Dec 8
8 p.m.
Sunday, Dec. 9
2 p.m.
Valhalla Theatre
Irvington High School
41800 Blacow Rd., Fremont
(510) 656-5711, ext. 46423

Tickets are 15 for general admission, $12 for students with an ASB card, and $10 for seniors and children under 12.

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