The epitome of Hollywood glamour smiles right at you, the searchlights swirl above your head, stars saunter down the red carpet as the string trio plays — and Shakespeare awaits you inside. So began the pre-show event in South Lakes High School’s production of “Shakespeare in Hollywood.”
In the play, Shakespeare’s Oberon (Riley Keenen) and Puck (Molly Palmer) from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” stumble into Hollywood in 1934, where Warner Brothers Pictures, headed by Jack Warner (Jake Huber), is making a movie version of the famous play about them. Oberon and Puck wind up cast as themselves in the movie, get tangled up in love potion complications with celebrities, and cause chaos which proves madcap even by Hollywood standards.
Ken Ludwig, writer of “Broadway’s Crazy for You,” penned “Shakespeare in Hollywood” on commission from The Royal Shakespeare Company in England. He based the story on actual events that occurred during Warner Brothers’ real production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” and draws several parallels between Shakespearean characters and Hollywood celebrities.
The foundation of South Lakes’ “Shakespeare in Hollywood” was the unity of the acting ensemble. Actors covered late entrances and flubbed lines gracefully; they kept the story moving and the audience laughing. The ensemble also shifted gears well, from the zany comedy of Act I to the final scene of Shakespearean tragedy, when there was palpable silence in the theater.
Keenen, as Oberon, filled the shoes of the lead actor, becoming alternately forceful and tender as the script demanded, especially in dealing with his mortal love interest Olivia (Erin Campagnoni). The Hollywood celebrities brought appropriate quirks to their roles, including foreign director Max Reinhardt (Nelson Gillum), squeaky prima donna Lydia Lansing (Michelle Johnson), gossip reporter Louella Parsons (Madison Crutcher) and the lovelorn, hilarious Dick Powell (Marshall Severin). The unexpected gold nugget of the cast was Daryl (Brad Miller), Jack Warner’s yes-man. Miller brought out every speck of comedy in his small role, and instilled a soul in the supporting character.
The stage and technical crews made the most of a small space, and cues for lights and sound hit the mark. The sound crew, headed by Susan Raimo, did an exceptional job of inserting special sound effects signifying thunder and magical occurrences. The timing of the sound effects coincided perfectly with the rhythm of the actors’ performances, a difficult feat to accomplish.
All the aspects of the show came together to produce a fine performance. Though fools these mortals may be, the cast of “Shakespeare in Hollywood” presented an entertaining show and tackled a challenging script with courage and skill.