Love Makes Us Freaks

It's hard not to laugh when a character in the Chance Theater's production of A Midsummer Night's Dreamsays “the course of true love never did run smooth.” That's an understatement. Let's face it: love makes us freaks. So it may not be a good thing to say that love is in the air in a forest near Athens.

Okay, take a deep breath, because here's the plot and you will be quizzed after: Theseus, Duke of Athens (Marc Sanford) is set to marry Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons (Karen Webster). Egeus (Bob Campbell), the court crank, demands that Theseus force his daughter Hermia (Ruby Wendell) to accede to his wishes and marry the loutish Demetrius (Casey Long) instead of her true love, Lysander (Dominic Pham), under threat of death. Demetrius suffers from a spotty romantic track record, having already wooed and dumped Hermia's friend Helena (Mandy Hodge), a walking doormat who still carries a torch for the big lug. To avoid a dire fate, Hermia and Lysander make plans to run off together; to win his love, Helena decides to rat them out to Demetrius. Meanwhile, Bottom (Alan Hartung) and company, a group of rough tradesmen, are rehearsing a play to perform before the Duke and his new bride on their wedding night; based on what we see, none should quit their day jobs.

In director Ken Rugg's “postmodern” adaptation, all the play's action takes place under the watchful eye (and occasional heavy hand) of Oberon, King of the Fairies (Joseph Horn), whose mischievous servant Puck (Gabriel Robins) engineers all sorts of romantic misadventures before his boss finally steps in and sets things right. Magical intercession is an integral element of the play, but director Rugg's decision to have Puck and Oberon direct all the action from the very beginning (for example, having Puck act as puppeteer to Theseus and Hippolyta in their first scene, actually putting words into their mouths) has the unfortunate side effect of draining the play of any urgency; we know it's not real emotion making everyone crazy, but fairy mischief. The result is a Midsummer devoid of passion, fire and base human lust, suitable for families with small children, but painfully boring, as well.

The Chance Theater, 5576 E. La Palma Ave., Anaheim Hills, (714) 777-3033. Fri.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 p.m. Through June 21. $15.

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