OSF’s ‘Shakespeare In Hollywood’ bends the Bard to new comedic heights
With all of the construction going on I find it best to have you follow these directions. Take I-77 South to Exit 21C in Akron. Follow this around to the last exit and keeping in the right lane you will follow onto Mill Street. Turn right and proceed to past the traffic circle to South High Street. Turn right and Greystone Hall will be on your immediate left. There is free parking in the lot or across the street in the parking garage. Once in Greystone Hall take the elevator to the sixth floor to the Henry C. Bishop Stage Lobby. Here you will find yourself at the winter home of Ohio Shakespeare Festival and their newest offering...Ken Ludwig’s “Shakespeare in Hollywood”...a rollicking farcical comedy.
It is 1934 during the Golden Age Of Hollywood. Director Max Reinhardt (Mark Stoffer) has convinced the powers to be at Warner Brothers Studios to produce an extravagant filming of William Shakespeare’s “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream” starring the biggest Hollywood stars available (at the time) plus Jack Warner’s girl friend Lydia (Holly Humes). Into this stew of craziness appear Oberon (Ryan Zarecki) and Puck (Jesse Oyster) having taken a wrong cosmic turn after a night of partying (Puck spun around to the left instead of the right). With the two original actors set to play Oberon and Puck out of action, Reinhardt hires the real deals as replacements (considering that they arrived already in costume).
It’s the glitz and glamour of 1930’s Hollywood as sophisticated German director Max tries in vain to create his artistic vision of one of William Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies of all time. Along with dealing with super egos and hormones Oberon and Puck add a dose of the flower that when administered forces the victim to fall in love with the next person they meet.
At the same time, Oberon, while the all-powerful King Of The Fairies is having a bit of difficulty dealing with prying gossip columnists, ambitious starlets, huge egos, powerful studio heads and Will Hays (Terence Cranendonk) the self proclaimed king of censorship. Puck is of no help as he has “gone Hollywood” with glad rags, sunglasses and beautiful women.
In short all merry heck breaks loose when Oberon falls in love with the female lead, Olivia Darnell (Tess Burgler), who has been enchanted to fall in love with Dick Powell (Cory Enriquez). Will Hays is enchanted to fall in love with himself and in turn Max Reinhardt is enchanted to fall in love with Will. Gossip columnist Louella Parsons (Dede Klein) is enchanted to fall in love with Daryl (David Monter)), Jack Warner’s assistant, while Jack Warner (Brian Pedaci) is in love with but not by enchantment to Lydia as Lydia is enchanted to fall in love with Joe E. Brown (Robert Webster) who is in drag. Simple.
As with this production it is fabulous. That is true of nearly any time you see Ken Ludwig as the playwright. There are lots of chasing around but no door slamming this time as there are no doors. The cast hams it up in this wonderful comic farce and everyone has impeccable comic timing. The various actors easily glide in and out of Middle English (Shakespearetalk) and into the 1935 colloquial phrases of the day. The costuming is perfect for the time period and for the Shakespearean comedy that is demonstrated on stage. You in fact get the best of both worlds. There are loads of laugh out loud moments.
What can be better than comedic Shakespeare? Ken Ludwig takes us on a wild ride of fantasy in this supernatural screwball romp that pokes fun at not only Shakespeare but the entire 30s movie industry including the Hays Office that wielded way too much power. This delightful show is well worth the trip to Akron. Bring a friend.
Ohio Shakespeare Festival’s production of Ken Ludwig’s “Shakespeare in Hollywood” will be on stage in the Henry C. Bishop Theater in Greystone Hall located at 103 South high Street in Akron, Ohio through December 17, 2023. For more information and tickets go to https://www.ohioshakespearefestival.com/ or call (303) 574-2537.