In this production, the audience literally follows the action by hiking down a shallow, serpentine trail to a comfortable amphitheater for the lion's share of the performance, then trekking back up for the denouement. The sylvan setting inspires awe, yet never upstages the talented and disciplined cast and crew, which include a Show Guide (amiably executed by Brian Markley) and live musicians.
As we pause along the downward path for the first scene of the second act, the dramatic tension is so taut, you can hear a leaf rustle as Jason Peelle (Oberon) and Karen Offereins (Titania) exchange jealous threats among the madrona trees, while the ample but agile Warden Lawler (Puck) deftly negotiates every stump in order to eavesdrop from behind a humongous redwood.
There is a decidedly Dionysian quality to the afternoon (the audience is encouraged to begin with a picnic beforehand, and some members imbibed throughout). But the day's apparent spontaneity is the calculated result of Stuart Bousel's meticulous direction and the cast's passionate dedication to their craft. There are no gaps, no lulls, in the three-hour production.
Fairyphiles will be delighted with the costumes, which are cleverly devised and constructed by Khris Brown and Anida Weyl, among others. Peaseblossom, Cobweb, and Mustardseed come shimmering to life inside them. The only fashion flaw was the extreme decollete on Kari Wolman's gown. She is cast as Hermia, and her neckline plunges inches lower than any of the other ladies' and looks as though it might give way altogether during a scuffle with the honey-voiced Molly Benson, who plays Helena.
Even from among such ubiquitous talent, we can choose our favorites. Mine are Victor Carrion as the bewildered weaver, Nick Bottom, and Allison Miller, who plays both Starveling and Peaseblossom with disarming authenticity.
The playbill says the troupe aims "to bring theatre alive by actively engaging [its] audiences in found or unusual spaces." Their midsummer dream has hit the bull's eye.
"A Midsummer Night's Dream" continues Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m. through Sept. 2. Reserved seats are sold out, but standing-room-only tickets are available for purchase at the site on the day of the performance. General admission: $20; students, seniors and members: $15. For more information, log on at atmostheatre.com.
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