Entertainment :: Theatre

Shakespeare in Hollywood
by by Jack Gardner
EDGE Contributor
Tuesday Sep 16, 2008

Rover Dramawerks presents "Shakespeare in Hollywood";
Facing a title like Shakespeare in Hollywood, one enters the theater with wariness. It’s not always good to tamper with the classics and you never know quite what to expect when someone does. However, in this case, the new production of Rover Dramawerks at the Cox Building in Plano is both surprising and highly entertaining from the moment the show begins.

The premise behind "Shakespeare in Hollywood" is that somehow the "real" Puck and Oberon accidentally end up on the movie set of Max Reinhardt’s 1935 film version of "A Midsummer Night’s Dream." Of course, hilarity ensues as the King of the Fairies and his sprite wreak havoc on the movie set, and naturally Oberon falls in love with one of the actresses in the movie. Mixing real characters (James Cagney, Dick Powell, etc.) with made up characters (Lydia Lansing, Daryl, etc) the script weaves a tight and amusing plot with plenty of 1930's movie references and more than enough legitimately delivered Shakespeare lines to please almost any theater goer.

The star of the show is Shane Hamlin as Oberon who is not only an attention riveting and convincing actor, but with a profile to rival that of John Barrymore. His performance never feels anything other than completely natural and is a joy to watch. As Olivia Darnell (a composite of Olivia de Havilland and Linda Darnell), Julie Osborne is lovely and sensitive in her romantic moments and has a flair for slapstick. Of all the female actreses, her characterization feels the most 1930-ish. As Lydia Lansing, Monica Rivera seems to be channeling Jean Hagen, the squeaky voiced blonde actress with little talent and the atrocious accent in the film "Singing in the Rain." While not high art, it’s funny and Miss Rivera has a lovely figure which she uses to her advantage. As director Max Reinhardt, Mark-Brian Sonna is charming and insolent and insulting and everything else that the character calls for. As Will Hays, Rick Dalton frequently steals his scenes hamming it up as the stuffed shirt Rick Dalton.

Director Carol Rice chose to stage the show in the round, with audiences on all four sides of the theater, which works quite well for this show. Her direction ably handles the rapid fire pacing of the script and there is never a dull or awkward moment in the show. The scenic design by Alejandro de la Costa is minimal but effective. The lighting design by Patrick S. O’Neal concentrates its energies on making the actors look beautiful rather than dazzling visual effects, which is a welcome development for modern theater. The costumes by Suzi Cranford are evocative of both the 1930’s as well as Shakespearean drama.

Special note: This production of "Shakespeare in Hollywood" is dedicated to the memory of Alison Davies. Originally from New Zealand, Davies had been a fixture on the Dallas Theater scene for many years. In August, she lost her battle with cancer and the Dallas theater lost one of its most hardworking and talented actresses. Her family has asked that donations be made in her name to Rover Dramawerks and that those who loved her as audience members or theater professionals sign the memory book in the lobby of the theater.

Rover Dramawerks Presents : Ken Ludwig's Shakespeare in Hollywood. Cox Building Playhouse, Plano, Texas. Sept 11-Oct 4,2008.

Jack Gardner is a founding producer of and director for Anagram Productions. He has performed in Operas, Musicals and dramatic works as well as doing voice over and radio work. Jack lives in Dallas with his three dogs. .

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