Theatre Raleigh's A Midsummer Night's Dream definitely isn't my stodgy high school English teacher's version of the classic Shakespeare comedy.
Filled with contemporary references, popular music and a little hip hop and modern dance, the 50-minute show offers a new take on one of Shakespeare's most popular works.
The play still, of course, features fairies and love and plenty of woodland mischief. The main characters are all there too - from the four Athenian lovers to the troupe of actors to fairy king Oberon, his queen Titania and, of course, Puck, Oberon's mischievous servant. And there's lots of Shakespeare-speak. Plenty of lines are pulled from the original play.
But, you won't need to bring along your Cliff Notes and Shakespeare translator when you go. As the Athenians and fairies go about their business, a new character, The Boy, played by William Kalland, a Cary High School freshman, occasionally explains the main action in present day talk, making it easy for the audience, especially kids, to follow along.
The show features plenty of laughs. They include a dance off between Oberon, played by Tim Caudle (familiar to family theater fans who saw him as Sam the Snowman in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) and Titania, played by Mary Kathryn Walston, who dances to Sia's "Titanium" as the fairies bring a fan to blow her hair around, diva style.
The ragtag band of actors are announced by Loverboy's "Working for the Weekend."
And Puck, played by Ben Redding, offers up a hilariously impish character who does his best to comply with Oberon's orders, but is sometimes just totally over it.
The show takes place inside the Kennedy Theatre at the Duke Energy Center for Performing Arts in downtown Raleigh, the intimate black box theater where you're no more than 10-feet from the action. And, in some cases, you're right next to it. There are cushions and pillows on the floor at the edge of the stage floor where the audience can sit and, in many cases, interact with the actors.
My seven-year-old and her nine-year-old friend had big grins throughout the entire as they sat on the pillows, giving high fives to the performers and feeling like they were part of the action.
Theatre Raleigh recommends the show for fifth graders and up. There is, after all, talk of love and suicide. (It is Shakespeare). Even with The Boy character, it could be difficult for younger audience goers to follow along. With that said, my first grader and her fourth grade friend were absolutely mesmerized. So, it depends on the kid.
A Midsummer Night's Dream runs through March 19. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for kids ages 12 and under. Showtimes are 6 p.m., Thursday and Friday; and 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.
Theatre Raleigh's family series continues with The Wolf, which opens March 23.
More information is on Theatre Raleigh's website.