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July 11, 2018

Review: Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' charmingly recast in La La land

Michael Rechtshaffen, Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Times

At initial glance, the notion of Shakespeare’s oft-reinvented “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” reset in modern-day Los Angeles complete with a surfer dude Puck and texted soliloquies wouldn’t exactly lend itself to movie magic.

But darned if Casey Wilder Mott’s feature directorial debut doesn’t prove to be a disarmingly effective, visually vibrant frolic.

While previous incarnations have become rock operas or set against a disco beat (1999’s “The Donkey Show”), it was probably only a matter of time before you’d find a Hermia (Rachael Leigh Cook) who’s a movie star dubbed H-Pup, or a Theseus (Ted Levine), now a big-shot Hollywood producer, landing the cover of Variety as Showman of the Year.

And even though the play is no longer the thing (it’s now a very-low-budget film), and this time the overzealous Bottom (Fran Kranz) finds his head transformed into an ass of the human anatomical variety, somehow it all works.

Credit an energy level that takes its buoyant cue from Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” and a similarly sprightly cast, with especially delightful work by Avan Jogia’s impish Puck and Lily Rabe’s Helena, recast as a brooding screenwriter.

Meanwhile Mott, who started out in Hollywood working in the fabled William Morris Agency mailroom, nimbly choreographs all the updating, resulting in a breezy, cute-and-clever confection that’s tailor-made for a sultry midsummer’s night.