It's the inherent unconventionality that makes it a perfect play for experimentation.
"You have to pass through 400 years of bad ideas, repetition and cliche to get it right," Stoudt says. "You always try to bring people back to square one and have them see the play like it's new."
O'Dwyer doesn't think his turn as Puck is such a revolutionary risk, given other roles he's tackled.
In 50 years of performing, the actor has played everything from the demonic Fistula in Vaclav Havel's "Temptation" to roles he originated in Beth Henley's "Debutante Ball" and James Duff's "A Quarrel of Sparrows." He served as chair of the drama department at Bennington College in Vermont from 1976 to 1980 and is associate director for Theater Three in Dallas.
He is no stranger to controversial roles. He recently appeared nude on stage in Dallas in "A Tale of Two Cities," in which he played a drag queen. There, his age did garner attention, he says.
"This is what a 60-year-old body looks like. I'm sorry, but there's nothing I can do about it," O'Dwyer remembers explaining. "I had people yell from the audience, 'You're insane!' "
That wasn't half as traumatic as O'Dwyer's pixie debut more than 30 years ago in Chicago. It's an experience O'Dwyer doesn't enjoy recalling.
An early Puck
He played Puck in a production called "Dream," complete with ballet and symphony.
"It was such a montage, it just overwhelmed itself," he says. "I was so young, and it so frightened me that I was in such a predicament."
"Dream" gave O'Dwyer fear of Shakespeare. For a while, he only took on a Shakespeare project every 10 years.
But he's gotten over it, thanks in part to his role as Friar Laurence in "Romeo and Juliet" at Center Stage last season.
And this turn as Puck has opened him up even more, through both its intellectual and physical challenge.
"I thought I wasn't going to be tired," O'Dwyer says. "but by the third day, everything in my body hurt."
He used these obstacles to his advantage, by playing his age against Puck's highjinks.
A little slow on takeoff
"I'm running around more than I thought I would; I'm omnipresent," he says. "I tell them I'm going to go swiftly, and I can hardly get off the stage."
Rebecca Creskoff, 26, who plays the lonely and lovesick Helena, says O'Dwyer's Puck packs much more intrigue than the sassy, acrobatic sprite in another production of the play in which she played Helena.
When Puck sets the handsome and hormonal Lysander and Demetrius in hot pursuit of Helena after sprinkling love juice on their eyes, she senses concern and humanity on the pixie's part.
"I don't know if it's Larry or Puck or some combination of the two, but he makes me feel very safe," she says.
A Puck who can impart that kind of sensitivity while making a fool of Helena is rare.
You might call him a director's dream.
Pub Date: 10/08/97