Group of people dressed like fairies outside
The cast of the Actors Ensemble production of Faeries of the Moonlight at John Hinkel Park. Credit: Vicki Victoria

Nothing could be better than outdoor theater in the summer, except for free outdoor theater. And the Actors Ensemble of Berkeley is bringing the charming and upbeat musical, Faeries of the Moonlight to the John Hinkel Park Amphitheater. And it’s free!

Faeries of the Moonlight, John Hinkel Park Amphitheater, through Labor Day

Audiences of all ages will enjoy the delightful Faeries of the Moonlight. And it is one of the few theater productions that children between 6 and 12 can understand and appreciate. With comedic highlights, it includes lessons about the importance of friendship, loyalty, and judging people by their inner, not outer, selves. The book and lyrics are by Mercedes Cohen; the appealing music, derived from classic Irish melodies with a modern touch, is composed and arranged by Aoife Ni Conchobhair O’Connor. Michael Cohen directs.

This modern musical fairy tale is about defiant teenager Sunny’s brave and bold adventures (excellent performance by AnneJelika Ong Cortez). She inadvertently crosses over to the fairy realm after she clashes with her mother, a Celtic punk rocker (Vicki Victoria). Sunny is trapped behind the portal that connects the fairy and human worlds when two fairies, Rory (Jacob Miller) and the so-called ugly Maddie (Flannery Mays), come to her aid. The teen’s deep desire to return home is at stake when magic, betrayal, and sacrifice ultimately thrust the factions of fairies into a life-and-death struggle. The climax at the Moon Bow festival begins with music, dance, and poetry and then builds to a magical duel.

It is admirable that Actors Ensemble produces as structured a show as it does, considering it is an entirely volunteer-run organization. All the actors have day jobs and work for free because they love acting and are gaining experience. Yes, there is variability and unevenness in the professionalism of the acting and singing, but overall, it’s quite pleasant, and all are giving their best. Acting and singing outdoors presents an additional burden since sound doesn’t carry well al fresco. The sound resonance was more difficult when I attended the performance on Aug. 20 because the enhanced sound system wasn’t working perfectly. After the intermission, the second act moved along faster than the first since it contained more action and plot development.

Faeries of the Moonlight is playing at the John Hinkel Park Amphitheater (41 Somerset Place, Berkeley) at 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays through Sept. 3, and on Labor Day. The amphitheater can seat over 200 people and consists of a series of stone terraces — bring lawn chairs, pillows and/or blankets.

A limited number of spots for wheelchairs at ground level are available, with adjacent permanent benches suitable for wheelchair companions or those who cannot climb steps. Reservations are accepted for these spots and in the first two terraces for those with limited mobility and all others.

The performance is about two hours, including a short intermission. Grilled hot dogs, water, and corn on the cob are available for suggested donation at intermission. Parking is limited to neighboring residential streets. For information and reservations, email or visit the Actors Ensemble website.

Emily S. Mendel reviews Berkeley’s vibrant theater scene for Berkeleyside. As a native New Yorker (although an East Bay resident for most of her life), Emily grew up loving and studying theater, from...