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Getting Some Fairy Tail 

Richmond Shakespeare's "Midsummer" adds pop culture to a play that is sexy or innocent, depending on what you're looking for.

click to enlarge midsummer.jpg

Sensual is the word that summarizes the Richmond Shakespeare Festival's version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Shakespeare's ode to love. It is steamy yet playful, capturing the giddiness of young lovers and proving my companion's point that "Shakespeare is all about hooking up." But this show is not just for grown-ups; several children in the audience thoroughly enjoyed themselves, laughing often while the sexual innuendo sailed harmlessly overhead.

Part of the fun of the play is Shakespeare's observations of the incompatible behaviors of men and women engaged in timeless entanglements. To emphasize the differences between the sexes, director Andrew Hamm casts three voluptuous goddesses to contrast with his muscular males. The five-player ensemble -- Sandra Clayton, Brandon Crowder, Stacie Rearden Hall, Kerry McGee and Adam Mincks -- displays remarkable versatility and physicality as they play 22 human and mystical characters with Richmond Shakespeare's trademark modern-day adaptations.

All of them sing, act and move marvelously well, but Crowder amazes with his spiderlike embodiment of Oberon and McGee shines as the mischievous, childlike Puck. Hall sings a mean rendition of "Let's Hear it for the Boy" during intermission and Egeus will never sound the same again without Clayton's expert Boston accent. Minks gets high marks for his Bottom (no pun intended).

While Hamm's use of pop-culture references and music amplifies the fun-loving spirit of the show, an added original song at the close drags out the ending. And although the play-within-a-play is so hilarious it prods shrieks of laughter from the audience, it could use some editing. But aside from that, there is not a better way to spend a midsummer night.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" plays through July 12 at Agecroft Hall at 8 p.m. Gates open at 7 p.m. for picnics. Tickets are $25. Visit www.richmondshakespeare.com or call 866-BARD-TIX.

 

CORRECTION: In the original version of this story we misspelled Adam Mincks' name.

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