Much has been made of the difficulty in classifying the Bard's notoriously challenging send-up of moral absolutism and hypocrisy. When the laughs are elusive, it is written off as a so-called “problem play.” When the delicate nuances of its characters' risible flaws are fully illuminated and Shakespeare's satire flares into view, only then is it recognized as a comedy. Director Ellen Geer's lively modern-dress version lands somewhere in between. Set against the California counterculture of the 1960s — replete with hippies, reefer smoke, riot cops and engaging renditions of 1968's protest-song hit parade — Geer's production never lacks for rousing spectacle. As Angelo, Adam Mondschein's compelling portrait of puritan intolerance corrupted by power and ungoverned desire is both suitably chilling and all too familiar. Willow Geer's Isabella, the untouchable object of that desire, takes incorruptible chastity to its absurd and equally blinded extreme. The show's comic heavy lifting is left to the capable shoulders of Melora Marshall's deliriously dissolute and ingratiating male-drag Lucio and Gerald C. Rivers' slyly punning Super Fly pimp Pompey. Earnestine Phillips shows off remarkable pipes as the song-belting, dashiki-clad Mrs. Overdone and Erica D. Schwartz's costumes lend the proceedings the surreal frisson of a DMT-demented revelry at Burning Man. Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum, 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd, Topanga; Sun., July 1, 15, 29, Aug. 19 & 26, 3:30 p.m.; Sat., July 7 & Aug. 11, 4 p.m.; Sun., July 22, Aug. 5 & 12, 7:30 p.m., Sat., Aug. 4, 18 & 25, Sept. 1, 8 p.m.; through Sept. 1. (310) 455-3723, theatricum.com.
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