Arts and Entertainment

Complications of mistaken identity arise in the forest

Oberon the greaser (played by Daniel Stoltenberg) and the young and impressionable Puck (Jenny Estill) in Kitsap Forest Theater
Oberon the greaser (played by Daniel Stoltenberg) and the young and impressionable Puck (Jenny Estill) in Kitsap Forest Theater's 1950s-era 'Midsummer Night's Dream.'
— image credit: Courtesy Photo/Kitsap Forest Theater

Kitsap Forest Theater stages Arne Zaslove's oddity, a 1950s rock and roll musical of Shakepeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream" throughout the month.

Right from the beginning something seems awry.

Halfway down the trail to the Kitsap Forest Theater for The Mountaineer Players summertime Shakespeare performance, golden oldie records are hanging from tree branches. A bit further down, you run into a 1950’s shaggin’ wagon.

The relics seem strangely out of place in this environment.

Interspersed with the 50’s aesthetic are plaques posted on trail side trees, featuring Shakespearian quotes from the characters of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” giving premonition to the quirky production that’s being housed below — Arne Zaslove’s 1950’s rock and roll musical version of the Shakespeare classic.

Granted the themes match up fairly well — teenage love with the era of poodle skirts and leather jackets — still it makes one wonder what the Bard himself would think of his characters in 50’s garb, breaking out into hand jives and doo-wop songs.

I wonder what sparked Zaslove’s interpretation.

But he’s the Fulbright Scholar, “the closest thing Seattle boasts to a living cultural resource,” Seattle Weekly said. So who am I to question?

Zaslove, a Seattle master teacher, director and historian of the theater, leads regular Shakespeare workshops that aim to bridge the time gap between the Bard’s era and the present day to help actors and directors connect with and mine the riches of the text.

It’s the classic comedy of mistaken identities with all the vintage Shakespeare dialogue, only the characters are sporting bobby socks, poodle skirts and slicked back hair. It’s prom night 1957 at Athens High School and every now and then the players are compelled to break out into 50’s pop songs.

The show opens with graduating seniors Lysander (played by Evan Randall) and Hermia (Ashleigh Emmons) in love, as are fellow seniors Demetrius (Stuart Baker) and Helena (Sydney Kaser). However, Hermia is now also adored by Demetrius (Stuart Baker) whom her father wishes to force upon her, enlisting the help of high school principal Theseus.

So she and Lysander escape to the forest, followed by Demetrius and Helena, where the complications of mistaken identity arise at the hands of recent Athens High graduates Oberon (Daniel Stoltenberg) and Titania (Amy Beth Lindvall) and Athens freshmen Puck (Jenny Estill) are playing with magic flowers and love potions. Oberon wants to put a spell on Titania which will make her fall in love with the first person she sees upon awakening, but upon hearing the plight of Helena, having been denounced by Demetrius, he tells Puck to also give the magic potion to Demetrius to reunite those love birds.

But Puck makes the mistake of setting up Lysander instead, creating a big emotional mess.

In the midst of all that chaos, a group of singing thespian custodians from Athens High are rehearsing a production which they will play for Theseus at the prom, when one of them gets involved in the forest love sorcery.

It’s great sport for the leather-jacket clad sorcerer Oberon. But all good sports must come to an end. And in this version of the play, it’s likely to be resolved with one big musical number.

“So get ready to sit back, tap your toes and enjoy the show,” director Ellen Graham said.

THE KITSAP MOUNTAINEERS PLAYERS present Arne Zaslove’s 1950’s rock and roll version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through Aug. 24 at the Kitsap Forest Theater off of Seabeck Highway in Bremerton. Tickets are $16 at the door for adults ($14 presale), $10 for youth ($8 presale), kids under 6 are free. Picnics at the trailhead encouraged. Info: or call The Mountaineers at (800) 573-8484.

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