Theatre Mirror Review>"Shakespeare in Hollywood"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"


entire contents copyright 2015 by Tony Annicone

"Shakespeare in Hollywood"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

Renaissance City Theatre Inc., the producing entity at the Granite Theatre's current show is the 2004 Helen Hayes Award winning best play, "Shakespeare in Hollywood" by Ken Ludwig of "Lend Me a Tenor" fame. It's 1934 and Shakespeare's most famous fairies, Oberon and Puck have magically materialized on the Warner Bros. Hollywood set of Max Reinhardt's "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Instantly smitten by the glitz and glamour of show biz, the two are ushered onto the silver screen to play (who else?) but themselves. With a little help from a feisty flower, blonde bombshells, movie moguls and arrogant "asses" are tossed into loopy love triangles, with raucous results. The show is chock full of puns, jokes and mayhem. Director David Jepson takes the audience on a merry romp, leading to many laughs with the clever twists and turns of events especially the magical ones in Act 2 when Puck's magic flower ends up in the wrong hands. The two Shakespearean characters expose the phony behavior and pretentiousness of Hollywood in the 1930's. They are also there to spark romance and cause some mischief along the way.

David keeps the action flowing with frenetic energy all night long. The performers take you on a wild ride of fun and frolic reminiscent of Ludwig's earlier farce "Lend Me a Tenor." Not wanting to give away too much of the story line to spoil it for the audience I'll comment more on the performers and their crazy roles.Max Reinhardt, narrator and voice of reason is excellently played by Greg Bliven who runs roughshod over his performers. His Austrian accent is very funny, too. When he gets zapped by the flower, the object of his affection is a laugh out loud moment. Cigar chomping, gravel voiced Jack Warner is brilliantly played by John Cillino whose character is having an affair with Lydia Lansing, a red headed but air head bombshell wonderfully played by Claudia Bach. Her dim bulb character at one point recites Shakespeare backwards which has to be heard to be believed. Claudia has many comic moments as this dummy.

The two magical sprites are the biggest scene stealers of the night. Ryan Sekac commands the stage as Oberon with his superb British accent and fantastic line delivery. He becomes obsessed with Olivia Darnell as the show goes along. Kelly Robertson is fantastic as Puck. Ryan and she have some playful banter together. She is cunning, clever and magical as this mischievous imp. Mandy Solis is a hoot as Louella Parsons. Her spat with another woman over their smitten paramour is a laugh out loud scene. Tall, dark and handsome Max Leatham plays Dick Powell who lusts after Olivia, too. His crush after the flower's magic is a laugh riot. Olivia is well played by Sophia Kreyssig. She is topnotch as the insecure ingenue who falls in love with Oberon who instills confidence in her. She has some cute moments when she lets her mother know what is happening on the set. The villain of the show is the pompous Will Hayes, the censor who wants the Shakespeare film cleaned up. He is excellently played by Hassan Demartino. The audience loves it when he gets his comeuppance twice in the show. Once via a mirror and the second time by the magic of Oberon. Rounding out the cast are Tom Steenburg as Daryl, Jack Warner's Yes man, Bob Mignarri as Joe E. Brown in drag and John Lamar as Jimmy Cagney.So for a fun filled summer treat by the Renaissance City Theatre that will leave you laughing in the aisles, be sure to catch "Shakespeare in Hollywood" in Westerly. It certainly isn't your grandmother's version of Shakespeare.

"Shakespeare in Hollywood" (19 June - 19 July)
RENAISSANCE CITY THEATRE INC.
@ 1 Granite Street, WESTERLY RI
1(401)596-2341

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