Camelot's 'cute' production packed with laughs

Ken Ludwig's "Shakespeare in Hollywood" is Camelot Theatre's latest production.

OK. It's a cute idea.

Oberon, king of the fairies, and his loyal servant, Puck, of Shakespeare's "Midsummer Night's Dream," somehow wind up in 1934 Hollywood, just as famed German director Max Reinhardt has persuaded mogul Jack Warner to make a movie of the play. The actors Reinhardt cast as Oberon and Puck have dropped out of the film and now there are these two strange guys, see, who can really stay in character and really know their lines, so Reinhardt casts them as Oberon and Puck.

We get these characters speaking, like, you know, like Shakespeare stuff? And we put them in the world of a movie studio, but we make it like, you know, madcap stuff? The Marx brothers, a dumb blonde who is the mogul's mistress, a good-looking sincere hero, a sweet ing&

233;nue. We can, like, even make Jimmy Cagney and Joe E. Brown, and those kinds of guys, like extras in the film? Then, to like mix up the plot, see, we can use that magic flower that makes you fall in love with the next thing you see &

you remember that from the play, right? &

we use that to, like, make everyone fall in love with the wrong person.

It's gonna be hilarious.

Unbelievably, writer Ken Ludwig actually pitched this idea to London's Royal Shakespeare Company. Inexplicably, they gave him a commission to write the play. "Shakespeare in Hollywood" had its premiere at Washington's Arena Stage in 2003.

Now, "Shakespeare Hollywood" is at Camelot Theatre in Talent. And it is, indeed, a madcap comedy. Director Dianna Warner has pulled out every shtick in the book, told her actors to be as wild and funny as they can be, and then more so.

Some of it works, some of it doesn't.

If you love slapstick comedy with lots of action, lots of sight gags, silly situations and crazy plots, you are going to love this production. Warner's concept is to play it for laughs &

as many laughs as possible.

Mostly, Warner has actors that are true to her concept of the play. Her real find is SOU Theatre Arts student Tara Watkins as Puck. Playing Puck as a young boy, Watkins does an absolutely hilarious turn as a fairy sprite who "goes Hollywood." (Watkins is uncannily reminiscent of the 1970s actress Sandy Duncan playing Peter Pan.) Oberon is played by Don Matthews. With his imposing stature and commanding voice, Matthews does a fine job as Oberon, confused in this strange new world but making the best of it.

Of the Hollywood contingent, the standout here is Katie Warner-Falk as the pouting, nasal-voiced Lydia Lansing, who persuades boyfriend Jack Warner to make a "prestigious picture" with her so she won't keep appearing in Louella Parsons' column as a bimbo. Brian O'Connor as Jack Warner is as ham-fisted and uncouth as we would expect him to be. Mae Jeffs has a lovely turn as the earnest ing&

233;nue, Olivia.

Heiland Hoff gamely tries to bring off playing a gleeful Max Reinhardt but doesn't quite succeed.

Kristie Abart plays an arch Louella Parsons, Jeremy Johnson is an earnest Dick Powell, Brandon Manley is the hapless gofer Daryl, and David Rees is the properly dastardly Will Hays. They are joined by Daniel Stephens as Jimmy Cagney and A.J. Falk as Joe E. Brown.

Emily Ehrlich Inget has provided sumptuous, colorful costumes for both 193's Hollywood and a "historical" film. Daniel Zastoupil has once again done a satisfying set on a shoestring budget and Bart Grady's professional lighting design. Brian O'Connor should get special mention for the sound design &

great sound effects, good bits of authentic background music for the scene segues.

There are some really funny moments in "Shakespeare in Hollywood," mostly those with the juxtaposition of the crass and the cultured. It's all played wild and crazy and cute. And, after all, that is what Ken Ludwig &

who also wrote the wildly successful "Lend Me a Tenor" and "Moon over Buffalo" &

had in mind. I think he would be proud.

"Shakespeare in Hollywood" plays at the Camelot Theatre through Sept. 9. For more information, call 535-5250.

Share This Story