'20s Style Dominates 'Midsummer Night's'

Jay Gatsby might have admired the new version of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at A Noise Within in Glendale.

Director Sabin Epstein has put Shakespeare's ageless comedy in a 1920s time warp. Thus the ever-mischievous Puck (Dan O'Connor), donning aviator's goggles and a yellow slicker, leaps and belly-flops across the stage like some lunatic stunt pilot. Lysander (Kenneth R. Merckx Jr.) and Demetrius (Ricard Soto), with their cream blazers and white slacks, look more like competing tennis champs than rival Athenian suitors.

Titania's fairies are even garbed like the anonymous men in bowler hats from Rene Magritte's famous paintings.

In the end, though, Angela Balogh Calin's set and costume designs are just so much fancy window-dressing for an otherwise unremarkable "Dream." The period setting seems dictated more by style than substance, and much of the verse is lost in cutesy acting and physical clowning.

The best moments may belong to Dierk Torsek, who gives a spirited performance as Nick Bottom. After Puck turns Bottom into a jackass, Torsek makes a lewd but very funny visual joke while brandishing a long flashlight. A stunt like that would have been naughty in any era.

* "A Midsummer Night's Dream," A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale. Call for show times. Ends May 14. $17-$19. (818) 546-1924. Running time: 2 hours, 55 minutes.

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