The Bard goes Hollywood

The comedic worlds of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and Hollywood glitz and glamour have collided into a modern show, "Shakespeare in Hollywood." The world premiere of the play by Ken Ludwig opened Friday at the Arena Stage's intimate Fichandler Theatre.

Artistic Director Molly Smith chose a fresh and humorous kickoff to the Arena Stage's 53rd season with lively characters, vibrant costumes and some adult-flavored kicks. Casting by director Kyle Donnelly was superb, with solid leads and supporting actors with extreme personalities and flair.

The Warner Brothers' 1935 production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" opens the show with every amusing Hollywood clich? in the book: Piercingly bright spotlights, flashy celebrities kissing and waving down the red carpet and obsessive media and journalists hovering over the microphone and camera.

Lydia Lansing's (Alice Ripley) entrance about 10 minutes into the performance got the audience enthused as she announced to her producer-boyfriend Jack Warner (Rick Foucheux), that she was chosen as the No. 1 slut in Hollywood. Lydia continues with her nutty sexpot monologue and demands that she be a part of Warner's proposed film by Austrian director Max Reinhardt (Robert Prosky). Of course Jack Warner does not want to disappoint his girl, so he decides to produce "A Midsummer Night's Dream" with Warner Bros.

In one part of the play all four Warner Brothers take a corner of the stage facing each other and fire back with hysterical comments about anything and everything, somewhat similar to the comedic discussions around the table in the basement of "That '70s Show."

Oberon (Casey Biggs) and Puck (Emily Donahoe) from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" are somehow transported to the 1935 production of the film and are cast as none other than themselves. What follows are moments of culture shock and generation gaps. The somewhat awkward, but romantic scenes between Oberon and love interest and opposite lead, Olivia Darnell (Maggie Lacey) make for a complex connection between reality and fantasy.

Casey Biggs performs believably as the somewhat mythical Oberon, who is baffled by the technology and culture of modern America and confuses movie stars by calling them moons. Robert Prosky, known for his roles in "Death of a Salesman," "Hill Street Blues," "Mrs. Doubtfire" and "Glengarry Glen Ross," brings the cast to another level with his renowned acting abilities. Supporting actress Alice Ripley's thick accent and comedic honesty made her addicting to watch. Everett Quinton gave another notable performance as the real-life Will Hayes, a censorship professional banning inappropriate and offensive material in films. Quinton's out-there antics and bizarre behavior added another layer of comedy to the cast.

Those familiar with "A Midsummer Night's Dream" may enjoy the modern twist while others may need to stretch their imaginations a bit further. Viewers who have never read or seen the Shakespearean play are sure to enjoy "Shakespeare in Hollywood" anyway, for its magical elements, the non-stop humor of physical comedy and a clever storyline full of Hollywood nostalgia and classic lines from Shakespeare himself.

"Shakespeare in Hollywood" runs through Oct. 19 and tickets other than College Nights range from $40 to $53 with student discounts. Tickets may be purchased at the box office at (202) 488-3300. Performance times vary. When and Where to see the shows Students with college IDs can attend shows on select dates for $10 as part of the Arena Stage's sixth year of College Nights.

American Sign Language interpreted College Nights for the deaf and hard of hearing dates are marked by.*

College Nights are at 8 p.m. on Thursdays

  • 'Shakespeare in Hollywood' - Sept. 18, Oct. 16*

  • 'Proof' - Oct. 16, Nov. 6*

  • 'Camelot' - Dec. 4, Dec. 11*

  • 'Crowns' - Jan. 8, Jan. 22*

  • 'A Man's A Man' - Feb. 12, March 4*

  • 'Yellowman' - March 18, April 8*

  • 'Senor Discretion Himself' - April 22, May 13*

  • 'Orpheus Descending' - May 27, June 17*

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