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A Midsummer Night's Dream: When the Fairies Come Out to Play

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During William Shakespeare's lifetime, there was a lot of belief among the populace that fairies and other magical beings could cast spells on you while you were sleeping, says Kim Tobin-Lehl who is co-directing A Midsummer Night's Dream with her husband Philip Lehl at Stark Naked Theatre.

Both are looking for that same willingness to imagine mystical possibilities from audience members ready to once more engage with Puck, Bottom, Titania, Oberon, and the lovers Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius.

"We were both interested in doing a comedy," says Tobin-Lehl after recent seasons with Macbeth (very somber) and A Winter's Tale (mixed). The plot is somewhat involved: Theseus and Hippolyta are about to be married and have engaged a troupe of players - Bottom among them - for the wedding ceremony. In nearby Fairyland, Oberon and Titania are at odds and the fairy king launches a plan to embarrass her through use of a love potion administered to closed eyelids. Puck is the designated messenger and in short order makes a hash of it when Oberon decides to get involved in human affairs and help the scorned Helena achieve the love of Demetrius. Bottom is the luckless actor who acquires a donkey's head and with whom Titania becomes infatuated.

Lehl says the play revolves in many ways around Bottom who'll be played by Drake Simpson. "Bottom is really the creation in this play that nobody else had done before. He's sort of an early Falstaff," Lehl says.

Actor Luis Galindo is on board in the dual roles of Oberon and Duke Theseus and the cast includes three University of Houston actors. By the end, of course, everyone gets sorted out and there are marriages all round. In keeping with their usual simple set design (although watch the hanging ropes which become more tangled over time, mirroring the relationships), Lehl says they'll depend on lots of lights and small costume changes (everyone plays at least two characters) to get their points across. Otherwise, they'll let Shakespeare's words speak for themselves.

After performing Shakespeare for several years in Los Angeles on large stages which required grand gestures and loud projections, Galindo says he really welcomes the smaller stage at the Studio 101 theater.

"This is really beautifully written. This is one of the ones that is not a retread [based on history or someone else's story]," Galindo says. "To have that prodigious an imagination. This is reinvigorating my interest in Shakespeare." Performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream are scheduled for March 5-21 at Studio 101 at Spring Street Studios, 1824 Spring Street. 7:30 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 3 p.m. Sundays.For information, call 832-866-6514 or visit starknakedtheatre.com. $12 to $40.

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