Though critics and theater folk may blanch at yet another production of Shakespeare's romantic dream-comedy, Mark Rucker's staging reminds us why it remains the most popular of Shakespeare's plays. The story of four lovers intertwined with faeries, royalty and crude workmen sidelining as thespians is probably the most accessible of all classics, with surefire laughs that work in almost every production. In Rucker's take, the events materialize in an exciting pastiche of varied moments of 20th-century pseudo-European society thrust into a slyly homoerotic mosh pit of punk-disco muscle sprites ruled by powerful bi-curious Oberon (Elijah Alexander) and his Rolling Stonesesque servant Puck (Rob Campbell). Every line of the apparently uncut text is delivered with clarity and humor by a highly skilled cast. But the real star is the Cameron Anderson's intense yet functional set, which begins as a huge, white expanse before taking us on a whirl down into the center of the Earth, leaving a gorgeous wooded path and, at times, a wooden flying boat out of the imaginary world of Wynken, Blyken and Nod. This stunning set is all the more remarkable as it depends simply on old-fashioned stage rigging rather than show-off hydraulics. Splendid costumes by Nephelie Andonyadis and consummate lighting by Lap Chi Chu complete the picture, while composer John Ballinger and choreographer Ken Roht perfectly marry sound and movement. South Coast Repertory, 655 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa; Thurs.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Tues.-Wed., 7:30 p.m.; through Feb. 20. (714) 708-5555.
Thursdays, Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2:30 & 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 & 7:30 p.m.; Tuesdays, Wednesdays, 7:30 p.m. Starts: Jan. 28. Continues through Feb. 20, 2011