AISLE SAY San Francisco


By Ken Ludwig
Directed by Robert Kelley
Presented by TheatreWorks
At the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts
500 Castro St., Mountain View, CA / (650) 903-6000

Reviewed by Judy Richter

Hollywood egos and hype get an amusing send-up in Ken Ludwig's farce, " Shakespeare in Hollywood," being given its West Coast premiere by TheatreWorks. Ludwig starts with an interesting premise: Oberon (the imposing Don Carrier) and Puck (an agile Rebecca Dines) are transported from Fairyland to the Warner Bros. Studio in Hollywood in 1934. Ludwig then riffs on real characters and an actual film of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," directed by famed Austrian director Max Reinhardt (Gerald Hiken), who has fled the Nazis in his homeland.

Much of the merriment happens when Puck loses track of the magic flower that causes a person to fall madly in love with the next living thing that happens along. With nearly everyone pursuing or being pursued, it becomes a farce, but director Robert Kelley keeps a firm rein on the action.

Ludwig also takes a swipe at censorship and today's moral righteousness via Will Hays (Wm. Todd Tressler), who administered the Motion Picture Production Code of 1930 (the Hays Code), which, in collusion with the League of Decency, set strict standards for movies. Hays wanted changes in Shakespeare's play because parts violated the code.

Kelley has assembled a fine comic cast (several in multiple roles) with Suzanne Grodner as gossip columnist Louella Parsons; Gary S. Martinez as Jack Warner; Cyril Jamal Cooper as Daryl, his put-upon assistant; Lucy Owen as Lydia Lansing, Warner's dumb-blonde girlfriend; and Lisa Anne Morrison as Olivia Darnell, who's attracted to Oberon. Others are Craig W. Marker as Dick Powell, who also is attracted to Olivia; Robb Bauer as Joe E. Brown and Noel Wood as Jimmy Cagney.

The versatile set is by Andrea Bechert, the chic costumes by Fumiko Bielefeldt (especially Dines' jackets and Owen's dresses), lighting by Steven B. Mannshardt, sound by Cliff Caruthers and choreography by Richard Powers.

All of the play's best lines come from Shakespeare, but Ludwig adds his own comic sensibilities to create an entertaining but lightweight work.

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