Shakespeare with a twist

Critic's choice: Theater

November 14, 1999|By J. Wynn Rousuck

Two seasons ago in New York, a young director named Joe Calarco turned Shakespeare on his ear with a production called "Shakespeare's R&J." The unconventional staging re-envisioned "Romeo and Juliet" as a condensed play-within-a-play performed by four schoolboys at a repressive Catholic school. An unexpected hit, "R&J" happened to end with a quote from "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Now the inventive director is having a full-fledged go at "Midsummer," though once again, it's Shakespeare with a twist. Calarco's 1950s-period adaptation, which opens tomorrow at Washington's Shakespeare Theatre, begins at the rehearsal dinner for Demetrius and Hermia -- although the bride-to-be is actually in love with her gardener, Lysander. As she is being corseted into her wedding gown by Bottom, the tailor, Hermia faints and finds herself in a dream world filled with feuding fairies.

"In every way," Calarco predicts, "it's going to look like no 'Midsummer Night's Dream' that anyone has ever seen." Judging from his past history with the Bard, that may be the only predictable thing about the production.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream," now in previews, continues through Jan. 2 at the Shakespeare Theatre, 450 7th St., N.W., Washington. Tickets are $14-$58. Call 202-547-1122.

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