Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is comedy as light as the wings of the fairies that populate the story.
So when director David Karl Lee populates the gossamer-thin plot with pratfalls, sight gags and references to Lady Gaga, a curious unevenness arises.
When the jokes land — and so, so many of them do — the result is as funny to contemporary audiences as the original surely was to theatergoers in Elizabethan England.
But when they fall flat, or when the action gives way to some misbegotten songs, the show's delightful giddiness crashes to a halt.
When Hermia (Michele Vazquez) squeals with modern delight at an engagement ring from Lysander (Avery Clark), it's funny. When she later uses a karate chop with a Miss Piggy "hi-YAH!" it feels forced.
Likewise, Clark's Lysander is recognizably comical as a preening, lovesick, leather-jacket-clad bad boy. But he's pushed too far — eating Helena's hair, or more jarringly, turning a flashlight into a light saber and humming the theme to "Star Wars."
Part of the show's hodgepodge feeling stems from the fact there's no clear setting for the story: The action unfolds in a land where people like purple and glitter is abundant.
That has allowed costume coordinator Denise R. Warner, set designer Bob Phillips and especially lighting designer Eric T. Haugen to create a fairy-tale dreamscape that is beautiful to look at.
The stark black-and-white design of the opening scene, in which Hermia's father promises her to Demetrius (Walter Kmiec), despite her love for Lysander, gives way to lush blue, green and violet light in the misty forest glade where sparkly fairies frolic.
Oberon and Titania, the fairy king and queen, have quarreled, and Oberon (Wynn Harmon) plans to play a trick on her, with the help of his mischievous servant Puck (Claro Austria) and a love potion. As a result, she falls in love with Bottom, a comic member of an amateur acting troupe who Puck has given the head of an donkey.
The love potion causes further confusion among Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius and Helena (Courtney Moors), as well, until there's a happy ending for all.
Sarah Ireland gives Titania a tough edge, while Harmon makes a rather mild-mannered Oberon, leveling the playing field between them.
The four young lovers all sputter themselves into a suitably funny frenzy as the love potion confounds them — including a slow-motion ninja-like pillow fight. Clark and Kmiec find a lot of facial comedy in their dopey lovesickness, while Moors is a raspy-voiced spitfire as put-upon Helena.
Michael Daly pops his eyes and uses a pleading voice as the comical Bottom. He's matched by Anne Hering, with an amusingly grating New Yawk accent, as the leader of the second-rate actors. In a very funny moment, she whips out a megaphone to chastise her actors, for all the world like dictatorial Lucy in the Charlie Brown Christmas pageant.
Their cartoonish play-within-a-play draws laughs but much of its effect is blunted because so much buffoonery has taken place in the actual production.
Perhaps Lee was trying to send up the silliness of the story — and he has created a truly magical place for Shakespeare's tomfoolery. But the romp through this enchanted fairyland goes a few jokes too far.
Matthew J. Palm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5038.
See for yourself
•What: Orlando Shakespeare Theater production of the Shakespeare comedy "A Midsummer Night's Dream"
•When: Selected dates, Wednesdays-Sundays, through March 19
•Where: Lowndes Shakespeare Center, 812 E. Rollins St., Orlando
•Online: orlandoshakes.orgCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times