Midway through the opening-night performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as the sun set on a makeshift stage area at the edge of Bidwell Park’s Cedar Grove, the Bard’s words were momentarily drowned out by familiar and very un-Shakespearean sound: Van Halen.
The music grew louder, then quickly ebbed, as a few dozen cyclists passed by on the road on the opposite side of the clearing, some of their bikes decorated with glowing LED lights.
This isn’t mentioned in any way to diminish the quality of the production, or as a warning to potential audience members for the latest local incarnation of Shakespeare in the Park. Quite the contrary, the players didn’t skip a beat or drop a single line, and a few audience members just smiled and quickly forgot about the distraction. Such disruptions are part of the risk, and in this case the beauty, of staging a play in a public place, outside of four walls. If anything, the ride-by only contributed to the overall feeling of the evening—a magical and distinctly Chico experience.
Legacy Stage, the troupe behind the production, couldn’t have chosen a better work for their second foray into the park than A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The tale of three groups—the aristocratic Athenians, mysterious fairy folk and working class “Rude Mechanicals”—whose worlds chaotically and hilariously collide one long night was a perfect fit for Cedar Grove. The play starts before sundown and ends well into the dark night.