Shakespeare In Hollywood, now playing at the Neo Ensemble Theater, is a frothy cocktail of musical chairs with just a dash of cyanide to reflect the darkness of the Great Depression and the rise of the a film that in real life turned out to be a colossal flop, with fairy characters that scared the Hell out of the kids that mumsy had dropped off at the matinee to get some culture. (Catch it on TCM. It’s really weird).
There is a Twilight Zone-ish element to the play, but it’s mostly on the lighter side of movies and magic. Before long, people are running in and out of doors from one comedy troupe to another so quickly that it’s almost like you’re watching some wild Scooby Doo Meets “The Bard” Episode. It’s all very fast paced and funny. Familiar show biz characters abound. Some are characters like the worried producer, the put-upon genius director, and the starlets who wish to grab the lead role that surpasses their talent. An interesting part of the play features the lives of well known actors like James Cagney and Joe E.Brown. I’m a bit of a stickler for impersonations, so I have to furrow my brow a bit about their style of comedy in real life as opposed to what we get here, but that’s just a minor side note.
Square in the middle of studio politics and ridiculous vanity comes a cosmic rift in realities wherein Oberon, King Of The Fairies, and his amped up servant Puck find themselves in the middle of mortal mayhem, delighted with the fact that they are the stars. Like the play, A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream, the magical creatures cast spells with a magic flower so that whoever sniffs it — or in this case is hysterically attacked by it — falls in love with the first person they see. It’s at this point that the play gets fast and furious and deliciously ribald in an old school sense. Direction by Joe Ochman is pretty spot on and paces it just right. It’s almost like watching the comedy in a Busby Berkley film in between the musical numbers.
Studio/Stage 520 N. Western L.A. CA. 90004. Shakespeare in Hollywood runs every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through the 17th of May.