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THE BARD'S PLAYFUL 'DREAM' IS ALIVE IN L.A.

Byline: EVAN HENERSON

>LA.COM

The donkey-headed man swings.

As do the forest-scattered lovers, the prankster sprite and the fairy queen. Everyone's cutting loose to the tunes of Lionel Hampton, Cy Coleman, Cole Porter and Harry Woods via some hip arrangements by music director Steve Pandis and Matt Falker.

Quite a frisky little shindig the players -- and musicians -- of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" are putting on outside the Our Lady of the Angels cathedral (the production moves to Palos Verdes' South Coast Botanic Gardens July 25). Ultimately, this "Dream's" a better party than production.

Cause for dances and revels aside, it's not entirely clear what director Ben Donenberg and his Shakespeare Festival/LA company are trying to do with the "Dream" by overlaying L.A.'s Central Avenue scene of the 1920s.

The jazzily costumed (by Fontella Boone) fairies, lovers and rude mechanicals go about their magically mixed-up business for a couple of largely sprightly hours.

Songs are sung. Clothes are occasionally shed. Everyone looks like they're having a high old time, even when plot mayhem gets insane.

And when it comes time for the comically awful play-within-

a-play rendition of "Pyramus and Thisbe," those self same mechanicals hit the comic notes.

Geoffrey Owens, whose hammy Bottom had great brio when he was walking around with an ass head, more than delivers the goods as the tragic hero Pyramus.

Leave it to "Pyramus and Thisbe" to ensure that a decent "Dream" goes out on a high note. It's too bad Donenberg's jazz "Dream" needs that pick-me-up to begin with.

Evan Henerson, (818) 713-3651

evan.henerson(at)dailynews.com

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM

>Where: Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 555 W. Temple St., Los Angeles.

>When: 8 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday (closes Sunday). Moves to South Coast Botanic Garden, 26300 Crenshaw Blvd., Palos Verdes.

>Tickets: Free. Nonperishable food donation encouraged. Reservations: (213) 975-9891 or www.ShakespeareFestivalLA.org.

>In a nutshell: Central Avenue staging of Shakespearean comedy offers lots of music, little intent.

>Our rating: Three stars
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Title Annotation:LA.COM
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 20, 2007
Words:339
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