Audience Review: SHAKESPEARE IN HOLLYWOOD at Stagecrafters

by Patricia Bradford

It’s going to take a little magic for Max Reinhardt (Joe Tranchitella) to convince Jack Warner (T.J. Deluca) to film his vision of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1934 Hollywood. Ken Ludwig’s SHAKESPEARE IN HOLLYWOOD suggests that if the real Oberon (Jim Broyles) and Puck (Joshua Keiter) were on set, enchanted things would happen. Deftly directed by Yaga Brady, this production captivates from start to finish.

Before the King of Fairies arrives, Lydia Lansing (Anna Pysher) gets the ball rolling with a little sex magic. As cigar chomping wheeler dealer Warner, Deluca is tough and in charge, yet enthralled with the alluring Lydia. Pysher’s Lydia is sweetly dim, but no dummy when it comes to getting what she wants. Quickly assessing the situation, Tranchitella taps his inner wily German yet again as Reinhardt dangles the prospect of a serious role in a Shakespeare production under Lydia’s nose. Action!

Filming starts, and here come the parade of stars courtesy of gossip maven Louella Parsons (Rhonda Goldstein). Goldstein gets Louella just right, both star-struck and full of herself. Knowledge of both A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the movie version of same is helpful in sorting out the characters, but not essential for enjoying SHAKESPEARE IN HOLLYWOOD. In Louella style the notable personalities include:

*Dick Powell aka young lover Lysander (a grounded and bashful Geremy Webne-Behrman)
*Jimmy Cagney aka Bottom (an energetic and confident R.O. Scott)
*Rubber-faced Joe E. Brown aka Francis Flute (Patrick Cathcart, exuding the goofy charm of the real Joe E.)
*newcomer Olivia Darnell (starry-eyed Neena Boyle)
*and well-known but unwelcome Will Hays (Jeff Ragan) enforcing the production code

Working off camera are two other Warner Brothers (voices of Andrew Gilmore and T.J. Deluca), hard-working nebbish assistant Daryl (Daniel Shefer), and aspiring cameraman Sidney (Gregory Hines, I mean Holmes).

Expecting to find themselves in the woods outside of Athens, Oberon and Puck catch the wrong flight and find themselves on the set of the woods outside of Athens. And as in their play of origin, they just can’t help interfering in the lives of humans. Broyles, fortunately, is movie star good looking, so when Oberon boldly declares that he will play the role of Oberon, he is perfectly cast to play himself. Keiter’s face shows all the delight Puck feels when he realizes the possibilities open to a mischievous sprite in Hollywood. And, look, he brought the fall-in-love-with-the-first-person-I-see flower with him!

No spoilers here, just sit back and enjoy the magic of SHAKESPEARE IN HOLLYWOOD. The fairy invisibility spell is simple and surprisingly effective. The love mismatches triggered by the flower are a hoot, especially for smarmy Jeff Ragan who finds himself enamoured with … And, somehow, everything turns out just right. The play’s the thing – go see it!

The Stagecrafters, 8130 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia PA 19118 (215) 247-8881

Review submitted by:
Anne Lannak

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