The course of theater in an outdoor setting never did run smooth. GroundUp Theatre presents Shakespeare’s gauziest of comedies in various city parks through the middle of the summer. Unfortunately, this production has a long way to go if it’s going to compete successfully with alternatives like playing Frisbee or napping. A primary problem is volume. Too many of Shakespeare’s lines were simply swallowed up by the surrounding clamor of traffic, kids and the occasional Metra train. Sound is an inevitable problem in a production setting like this: to succeed, the play needs either a more emphatic visual presentation, so that the story comes across despite missing much of the language, or more vocally adept performers. The play’s general concept seems muddled as well: New Orleans elements are sometimes emphasized, as with the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta, and sometimes almost entirely absent. Here’s a larger question: free Shakespeare in the park is a terrific idea, but why can’t Chicago devote the kind of resources that New York does to it, making it a showpiece for the city’s artistic life, rather than a kind of afterthought? (John Beer)
This production is now closed.