This family-friendly spectacle transforms Shakespeare's tragedy about lovers into a musical romp in which slapstick prevails and the doleful denouement turns into a cautionary "this-coulda-happened-but-fortunately-didn't" ending. As is often the case with family entertainment, it's the theatrical embellishments that shine. Adapted and directed by Cynthia Ettinger, the production's premise is that the audience is watching a troupe of Transylvanian monsters perform their interpretation of the play staged outdoors in a park setting. The Friar (the likable and effective Donna Jo Throndale) narrates with merry panache. Dressed in an embroidered emerald-green robe, she acts as intermediary with the audience as well as perpetrator of the upbeat finale. The rest of the ensemble company veterans and a few youthful interns merrily dance and cavort their way through the storyline, to a mix of mostly rap and rock rhythms, in tandem with the uncredited droll sound design. The monster theme doesn't quite play, and I've seen cleverer parodies, even for kids, but the execution is entirely polished and the show is as fun as intended. Designer Lynne Marie Martens' mélange of colorful costumes and the performers' delightfully diverse makeup (uncredited, as is Christiane Georgi's animated choreography) add considerably to the mirth. The Actors Gang, Media Park, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City; Sat.- Sun., 11 a.m.; through Aug. 28. (310) 836-1040. theactorsgang.com.
Saturdays, Sundays, 11 a.m. Starts: Aug. 6. Continues through Sept. 4, 2011