A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM is funny, impactful and moving at A Noise Within

PHOTO: Daniel Reichert | The South Pasadenan | Kasey Mahaffy is “Puck” in A Noise Within's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
PHOTO: Daniel Reichert | The South Pasadenan | Kasey Mahaffy is “Puck” in A Noise Within's production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Funny, impactful and moving, A Noise Within’s delightful yet deeply resonant production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare is set to open on October 14 with co-artistic directors Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and Geoff Elliott at the helm. Performances will continue at the company’s Pasadena home through November 12, with previews beginning October 8.

When two pairs of mixed-up lovers and a troupe of amateur players stumble into the forest of feuding fairies, reality is upended as chaos and mischief abound. Anything can and does happen in this tumultuous, dreamlike world.

“This production anchors our entire ‘Balancing Act’ season,” note the directors. “When we start off, there’s a great deal of conflict, everything is out of whack. As the characters come together in the forest, they — and we — get to see everything in a whole new way and be changed by it. The characters, and even the forest itself, find a kind of alignment. They learn to get along and live with one another. It’s got to be Shakespeare’s most enchanting comedy — but the stakes are high and great transformations happen.”

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A Noise Within’s stellar company of lovers, fairies and clowns includes Zach Kenney and Trisha Miller doubling as the two most contentious couples, Theseus and Hippolyta and Oberon and Titania, with the younger lovers portrayed by Jeanne Syquia as Helena, Rafael Goldstein as Demetrius, Erika Soto as Hermia and Riley Shanahan as Lysander. Kasey Mahaffy plays that contrarian purveyor of chaos, Puck, with Cassandra Marie Murphy as the First Fairy. The hilarious mechanicals include Frederick Stuart as Nick Bottom, Veralyn Jones as Peter Quince, Ed F. Martin as Flute, and Brendan Mulligan as Snug. The ensemble is rounded out by East Los Angeles College theater department graduates Hakop Mkhsian and Erick Valenzuela.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of three plays, out of thirty-nine, for which Shakespeare does not follow a primary source. Literary critic Harold Bloom wrote, “Nothing before A Midsummer Night’s Dream is its equal, and in some respects nothing by him afterward surpasses it. It is his first undoubted masterwork, without flaw, and one of his dozen or so plays of overwhelming originality and power.”

“There’s a reason why this play is done so often,” conclude Rodriguez-Elliott and Elliott. “It’s fast moving, it’s muscular, and it’s a great company show.”

The creative team includes scenic designer Frederica Nascimento; lighting designer Ken Booth; composer and sound designer Robert Oriol; costume designer Angela Balogh Calin; wig and makeup designer Tony Valdés; properties designer Stephen Taylor; and dramaturg Dr. Miranda Johnson-Haddad. The production stage manager is Angela Sonner, with Talya Camras assisting.

A Noise Within has been called “an oasis for those who love classic stories” by the Los Angeles Times and is a leading regional producer based in Pasadena, California. Under the leadership Elliott and Rodriguez-Elliott, the award-winning resident company is committed to representing the entire community at its state-of-the-art, 324-seat performance space. In addition to producing world-class performances of classic theater, the organization runs robust education programs with the goal of inspiring diverse audiences of all ages. ANW believes in working hard on its anti-racist practice across the whole organization. By interpreting its mission to fully engage audiences through community and artist-centered work in multiple creative disciplines, ANW is striving to be a theater that better serves the entire community. A Noise Within’s 2023-24 Season is presented by the S. Mark Taper Foundation.

Performances of A Midsummer Night’s Dream take place October 14 through November 12 on Fridays at 8 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. (no 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday, Oct. 14; no evening performance on Saturday, Nov. 4). There will be one additional weeknight performance on Thursday, Nov. 2 at 7:30 p.m. Four preview performances take place on Sunday, Oct. 8 at 2 p.m.; Wednesday, Oct. 11 and Thursday, Oct. 12 each at 7:30 p.m.; and Friday, Oct. 13 at 8 p.m.

Tickets start at $29. Student tickets start at $18. Tickets to the previews on Wednesday, Oct. 11 and Thursday, Oct. 12 will be Pay What You Choose, with tickets starting at $5 (available online beginning at 12 p.m. the Monday prior to that performance). Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.

The preview on Thursday, Oct. 12 will be sensory-friendly, with a handout providing advance warning and a discreetly-placed lantern offering visual indication of upcoming abrupt or intense moments of lighting, sound or on-stage action. An INsiders Discussion Group entitled “Studying Shakespeare” is set for Sunday, Oct. 8 from 12:30 p.m.–1:30 p.m., prior to the matinee performance (separate admission: $25). Post-performance conversations will take place every Friday (except the preview) and Sunday, Oct. 22. In addition, there will be 13 student matinees scheduled throughout the run. Interested educators should email education@anoisewithin.org.

A Noise Within is located at 3352 E Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, CA 91107. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is recommended for mature audiences ages 14 and up. For more information and to purchase tickets, call (626) 356-3100 or go to www.anoisewithin.org