No donkey's ears necessary. Miles Anderson's Bottom elicits hee-haws, guffaws and, of course, more sophisticated laughter in The Old Globe's summertime production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, part of the 2013 Shakespeare Festival on the outdoor Lowell Davies stage. Though at times straying into Alfie Doolittle territory in this staging by Ian Talbot, Anderson is all goodnatured giddiness, whether under the spell of the fairies or starring in a ludicrous "Pyramus and Thisbe" with his fellow Athenian craftsmen. The physicality of this production is well-suited to his comical antics.
In spite of Anderson's rollicking presence throughout, this Midsummer is most beguiling in its keenly conceived fairyland sequences. These are charmingly enlivened by special "magical" effects, original music by Dan Moses Schreier and a cast of scamps and spell-weavers who flit about like wisps of gossamer. Jay Whittaker, so menacing in last year's festival as Richard III, is an athletic and scheming Oberon, king of the fairies. Barechested, in tight trousers and with a shock of blond-white hair, he looks like a Shakespearean Billy Idol, complete with self-satisfied scowl. Whittaker's Oberon is abetted in his manipulation of lovers Lysander (Adam Gerber), Hermia (Winslow Corbett, the funniest), Demetrius (Nic Few) and Helena (Ryman Sneed) by the prankish Puck (Lucas Hall). A bubbly bathtub scene with the donkey-eared Bottom and the enamored (thanks to a spell) fairy queen Titania (Krystel Lucas) provides the best sight gag of the evening.
When the action shifts from the forest of the fairies to the court of Athens, this Midsummer misses some of its enchantment, if not its unflagging energy (this ensemble is working hard). Even the closing performance of "Pyramus and Thisbe," the play within the play, is more music hall than magical.
This is an opulent but lengthy production, and keep in mind that though A Mid summer Night's Dream is the ideal outdoor Shakespeare, it gets chilly in the theater by the time Bottom and company put on their hapless show for Theseus, Hippolyta and the four reunited, properly paired-up lovers. On opening night, blankets were as ubiquitous a sight as fairy dust.
A Midsummer Night's Dream runs through Sept. 29 at The Old Globe Theatre. $29 and up. oldglobe.org
Carnival: An orphan named Lili joins the circus and becomes the object of an unhappy puppeteer's affection. Opens June 28 at Coronado Playhouse. coronadoplayhouse.com
Neva: As striking workers are gunned down outside the theater, Olga Knipper—playwright Anton Chekhov's widow—and two other actors perform scenes from their lives. Runs June 26 through 30 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
South Pacific: Parallel love stories unfold against a World War II backdrop, but it's the classic songs that carry this musical. Opens June 26 at Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. moonlightstage.com
Barefoot in the Park: A free-spirited woman and a retrained man are New York City newlyweds and struggling with their differences. Through June 30 at Patio Playhouse in Escondido. patioplayhouse.com
The Divine Sister: A bawdy parody of wholesome 1960s-era movies reveals what secrets lie within St. Veronica's convent school. Through June 30 at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights. diversionary.org
Extraordinary Chambers: An American executive brings his wife on a business trip to Cambodia as that country deals with the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge regime's crimes against humanity. Presented by Mo'olelo Performing Arts Company, it runs through June 30 at 10th Avenue Theatre, Downtown. moolelo.net
Fiddler on the Roof: The romantic notions of a working-class Russian Jew's daughters are a total pain in his traditional butt. Through June 30 at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado. lambsplayers.org
His Girl Friday: In an adaptation of the 1940 film, a reporter planning to leave the business is convinced by her editor and ex-husband to stay in the game for one last scoop. Through June 30 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.org
Accomplice San Diego: A different kind of theater happening—part play, part game—courtesy of La Jolla Playhouse's Without Walls program: Audience members arrive in Little Italy and experience the play around them as they walk through the neighborhood and respond to clues provided to them. Runs through July 7. Find details at lajollaplayhouse.org.
In the Heat of the Night: Ion Theatre Company closes its seventh season with the theatrical version of the 1965 novel, 1968 movie and 1988-1992 TV series about racism and criminal justice in the South. Through July 13 at BLKBOX Theatre in Hillcrest. iontheatre.com
Tribes: A deaf man raised in a hearing family meets a woman who was raised by deaf parents and is going deaf herself. Through July 21 at La Jolla Playhouse. lajollaplayhouse.com
miXtape: Generation X was torn between disillusionment and hope in this cavalcade of music from the 1980s. Produced by Lamb's Players Theatre, it runs through July 28 at the Horton Grand Theatre, Downtown. lambsplayers.org
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead: Tom Stoppard's existentialist play turns two minor characters in Shakespeare's Hamlet into lead characters. Through Sept. 26 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
The Merchant of Venice: Shakespeare's play, about a man who borrows money to court a woman, gave us the terms "shylock" and "a pound of flesh." Through Sept. 28 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Greek forest is alive with fairies, magic potions and the pursuit of love in the opener of The Old Globe's summer Shakespeare Festival. Through Sept. 29 at The Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park. oldglobe.org
Crime Pays: A radio game show with dastardly overtones, served up with dinner, is presented by Mystery Cafe at Imperial House restaurant in Bankers Hill. mysterycafe.net