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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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 Girl–like accents add comedic luster). However, mischievous fairy Puck (Joey Pata) casts a spell on Lysander so he falls for Hermia’s 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 Wolfert’s charming staging of Shakespeare’s 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 show’s 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 weren’t 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 wouldn’t occur to us. Staged in a makeshift theater space atop a musical band shell behind a West L.A. library, the show’s delightfully daffy mood and intimacy combined with the picniclike atmosphere offer a laid-back, unpretentious spectacle that’s perfect for summer — and for Midsummer. While some performers may wrestle with the verse or fall prey to weak diction, the show’s energy and innocently romantic comic timing craft a production that’s 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

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