When the curtain rises at the Amato Center for Shakespeare in Hollywood on Friday, July 13, be ready for over-the-top characters, ridiculous love pairings and a far more intimate theater experience than you’re used to.
The plot: It’s 1934, and Shakespeare’s most famous fairies, Oberon and Puck, materialize on the Warner Bros. set of Max Reinhardt’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The two are smitten by the glitz and glamour of showbiz, and so they become involved in the filming. After all, who could play Oberon and Puck better than Oberon and Puck? But things do not go according to plan, as so often happens in Shakespearean comedy. Love stories get tangled, and there are disagreements about the movie’s script.
Viewers will feel the hilarity and ridiculousness particularly closely, as the action takes place within the audience.
Perhaps the cast is channeling Shakespeare in this production; Shakespeare’s Globe Theater is known to create this effect — the line between the stage and the crowd disappears.
The expanded stage for this production is intended, in part, to give a cinematic effect. Wood cuts the stage in half and pushes everything forward: The back half is what occurs on the silver screen, and the front half encompasses everything that occurs on the acting set.
“Ordinarily, everything stays on stage, but here the audience is part of the stage,” Wood said. “Much of the action occurs on the other side, within the audience. It gives the play a more intimate feel, and audiences becomes more invested in the characters.”
Wood chose this play for the summer because of the tremendous writing and its quick-paced, witty twist on Shakespeare’s Midsummer Nights Dream.
“I love Shakespeare, and I love projects that take a little twist on Shakespeare,” Wood said. “But I also like the writer, Ken Ludwig.”
“The ... dialogue is written to be fast-paced and quick-witted, requiring actors to think on their feet,” Wood said. “I wanted to cast good actors and great people to work with — the cast has lots of chemistry, and I found that in this group.”
Bob Haas, who will be playing Oberon, said that the writing and directing allow the actors to explore their characters.
“I like everything about being with this production — Ken Ludwig writes such wonderfully playful plays, and he leaves so much open to the actors to just run with and make their own,” said Haas. “Mike Wood, as director, has mirrored this theme throughout the entire process. He has given us some specific things that we need to hit to make the show flow at top capacity, but has given us a wide range of freedom to just play and explore outside of that.”
The Milford Area Players perform three shows each year. Each member is a volunteer, there for the love of acting.
Haas said he immediately identified with Oberon when he saw the script. His character in Shakespeare in Hollywood is far more dimensional than in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, which presented a challenge and a delight.
“The process of putting this project together has never once felt like work, but more like a group of childhood friends getting together to play and just have fun...I have always said that if the actors on stage are out there having fun, then the audience can’t help but have fun along with them,” Haas said. “This play has distilled down to the essence of entertainment in its purest form.”