Robert Prosky as Max Reinhardt - Everett Quinton as Will Hays (Arena Stage)

PC: Scott Suchman


Portland Press Herald

Portland Press Herald
Saturday March 3

In 1934 Austrian-born director Max Reinhart convinced Jack Warner of Warner Brothers Pictures to film and distribute the fist silver-screen version of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.”

The cast included Hollywood notables James Cagney, Mickey Rooney, Olivia de Havilland, Joe E. Brown and Dick Powell. What would have happened if the play’s famous fairies, Oberon and Puck, had magically appeared on the movie set?

Mischief, mayhem and laughter abound as the Good Theater tackles this farcical notion in Ken Ludwig’s devilishly funny play “Shakespeare in Hollywood.”

Janet Montgomery and Good Theater co-founder Stephen Underwood have cleverly designed a nostalgic set that captures the glitz and glamour of 1930s Hollywood. Its monochromatic look beautifully simulates the view of the world through the lens of an old-fashioned movie camera.

All the characters are also dressed in black, white and gray, with the exception of Oberon and Puck. The fairies are brightly attired to accent the contrast between Hollywood and the fairy world.

Director Brian P. Allen has assembled a cast that gives added punk and magic to the play. Underwood is a delight as Oberon, king of the fairies. He easily charms the audience with smoothly delivered prose, droll facial expressions and perfect comic timing. Jess Leighton is Oberon’s henchman, Puck. The University of Southern Maine theater minor delivers an impish performance that heightens the pair’s mischievous quality.

The Tinseltown cast keeps the magic flowing. Leighton’s father, Steven, gives a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek performance as Max Reinhart, Kathleen Kimball is a riot as Lydia Lansing an airhead chorus girl willing to do anything to get ahead. Bob McCormack steps into the shoes of Hollywood movie mogul Jack Warner, who’s foolishly lovesick over Lansing. And, William Sandstead is Daryl, Warner’s “yes” man.

The fun just keeps coming with Jen Means taking on the role of actress Olivia Darnell. She delivers a strong performance with just the right comic touch. Amy Roche also stands out as gossip columnist Louella Parsons. Mark Rubin garners plenty of laughs as Will Hays, head of the Hays commission. And, Craig Ela, Keith D. Anctil and Brian Chamerlain grab their share of laughs as actors James Cagney, Joe E. Brown and Dick Powell.

“Shakespeare in Hollywood” is a play that combines the fanciful comic mayhems of a Shakespearean comedy with the behind-the-scenes mayhem of life in Hollywood. Ultimate chaos ensues when Oberon sends Puck for a magical flower that induces love at first sight.

The play is teeming with absurd situations, mismatched love affairs and one-liners that keep the laughter coming. There’s never a dull moment in this fun-filled piece.

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