In a forest of fairies, skater boy Lysander (a nicely slacker-y Rett Nadol) runs off with his sweet fiancée, Hermia (Rachel Emmers, whose Valley Girllike accents add comedic luster). However, mischievous fairy Puck (Joey Pata) casts a spell on Lysander so he falls for Hermias pal Helena (drolly neurotic Adeye Sahran). Meanwhile, fairy-queen Titania (Amanda Arbues) is enchanted into falling in love with a boorish Bottom (Kenneth De Abrew, playing the well-known character as an East Asian Oliver Hardy), who has been turned into a donkey for the day. Director Stephan Wolferts charming staging of Shakespeares romantic comedy fantasia is a co-production between the Veterans Center for the Performing Arts, the U.S. Veterans Artists Alliance and Shakespeare Santa Monica. The shows ensemble is a mix of professional actors and military veterans and one or two of whom are both at the same time, since the vocations are not mutually exclusive. One might expect the presence of veterans to give the show a somehow therapeutic undercurrent, but, in fact, the show is just good comedy, boasting some polished clowning. If it werent for the program bios, which mention the performer veterans time served and military branch (alongside the usual list of turns in standards like Noises Off and Blithe Spirit) the idea that the briskly staged and thoroughly enjoyable show has a connection to the armed forces probably wouldnt occur to us. Staged in a makeshift theater space atop a musical band shell behind a West L.A. library, the shows delightfully daffy mood and intimacy combined with the picniclike atmosphere offer a laid-back, unpretentious spectacle thats perfect for summer and for Midsummer. While some performers may wrestle with the verse or fall prey to weak diction, the shows energy and innocently romantic comic timing craft a production thats hard to resist. West L.A. Bandshell, 11338 Santa Monica Blvd, Santa Monica; Sat., 6 p.m.; Sun., 4:30 p.m.; through Aug. 9. Free.
Saturdays, 6 p.m.; Sundays, 4:30 p.m. Starts: July 11. Continues through Aug. 9, 2009