MOUNT DESERT — What could be more enchanting than spending a gorgeous midsummer night, under the stars and by the sea, watching a flock of fairies flit about, Greek legends strut about and a couple of lovestruck couples and an ass run about in a magical forest?
Last weekend folks got to do just that when Acadia Community Theater opened their production of Shakespeare’s hilarious comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” outdoors at the Northeast Harbor marina.
Although the professional polish of past Shakespeare by the Sea collaborations with the Barn Arts Collective crew was missed, it was still great fun.
It was all directed with head-spinning action by award winning Mount Desert Island High School drama head, Casey Rush, who recruited a good number of his former students, and a few current ones, who were willing to lose many summer hours on this labor of love.
Theseus, King of Athens and his bride Hippolyta (a regal Mark Carignan and Melissa Burkhart) have their wedding plans interrupted by a distraught dad, Egeus (Jamie Creed looking and acting like a sour puss scout master), whose lovely daughter Hermia (an adorable and determined Axis Fuksman-Kumpa) is refusing to marry Demetrius, the suitor he has chosen for her (an excellently and annoyingly entitled good boy, Zach Uliano).
Instead, the headstrong girl chooses the insouciant bad boy Lysander, played by a wicked good Griffin Graves.
Demetrius in turn is adored by tall, gawky Hermia (played with the intensity of a tweenie at an old Bieber concert by Mia Jeannotte) whom he can’t abide.
Meanwhile, back in the fairy wood, Queen Titania (a spellbinding Anne Leonardi with a darling fairy entourage of Ly Dillon, Atty Brown, Julia Moses and Nayeli Monahan) and her husband Oberon (a terrifically cool Patrick Harris) are having a bit of a tiff over a pretty boy the queen has taken under her wing.
In retaliation, Oberon enlists Puck (a mischievous Molly Menner) to put a spell on his wife that will make her besotted with the first person or thing she sees when she awakens from her nap. Stay tuned.
Enter the mechanicals, a group of laborers and artisans who have decided to put on the play “Pyramus and Thisbe” for the upcoming nuptials of Theseus and Hippolyta.
Each of these characters are excellently realized with bumbling incompetence and earnestness by Wendy Littlefield as a sort of den mother to the group: Ray Walters, whose facial expressions are worth a thousand words; Ethan Leonard, who is especially fetching in drag; Jake Van Gorder and Bethany Anderson.
But it is of course Mike Perlman as the gushing geyser of misplaced self-confidence, Nick Bottom, who carries off the show here, demanding to take on not only his part in the play but everyone else’s.
Since his high school days Perlman has been known for his zany performances, but he is at his best here, somewhat restrained by the demands of Shakespeare’s dialogue, but still able to put his own crazy spin on the role.
While it takes a good two and a half hours for everything to get sorted out it would be a mistake to leave early, as you do not want to miss the mini-play within a play “Pyramus and Thisbe” performed by the mechanicals in the final act, featuring doomed lovers, a lion, a wall, a rather talkative moonbeam and her dog.
The set featuring a woodsy bower works well, and while the costumes are a bit of a mishmash of styles and eras, who cares? I loved the footlights, which the Bard himself would have appreciated.
When you go to one of the shows this weekend — Aug. 2, 3 and 4 at 7:30 p.m. — be sure to bring a chair or blanket, bug lotion and something warm to wear when the sun goes down and the enchantment begins.