Doo-wop, Shakespeare-Style

An updated version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Fools in Love interchanges ancient Athens for West Athens, Calif., and sets the play in the 1950s. This condensed, one-act adaptation is aimed at children, and, with copious amounts of physical comedy and a soundtrack of pop music, it proves that Shakespeare can be understood and enjoyed by even those generally (and wrongfully) deemed too young for it. The show opens with four lovers convening at a diner to sip sodas and lament their tangled love lives. Helena (Annelise Abrams) loves Demetrius (Antony Raymond), but Demetrius loves Hermia (Erika Villalba). That would be all well and good, as Hermia's parents want her to marry Demetrius, but her heart belongs to Lysander (Matt Schuneman).

Hermia and Lysander decide to elope, and both Demetrius and Helena follow them when they flee into the forest, where a group of resident fairies attempt to unravel and realign their heartstrings. Lovers' spats are also present in the woods, as Oberon (Andy Langton) and Titania (Margaret Curry) squabble over their own feelings and argue over the possession of a changeling child.

A cappella accompaniment to the action is provided by a group of doo-wop singers who drift in and out of the action singing 50's and 60's pop songs as a kind of Greek chorus. The oft-covered "I Will Follow Him" accompanies Helena's mad dash as she chases Demetrius deep into the forest, and when Hermia and Lysander sleep in the woods, the singers perform a snippet of the classic "Goodnight, Sweetheart." What the group occasionally lacks in pitch, they more than make up for with enthusiasm.

Besides that addition, however, the rest of the play stays the same. Though it is considerably cut down (while still running nearly two hours without an intermission), there have been virtually no changes to the language itself. Some characters have been tweaked ever so slightly to suit the time period, but little else needs to be changed to help kids get Shakespeare's comic characters. In this version, we have a pocket protector-wearing Lysander, and Peter Quince (Tom Falborn) and his gang are the diner's chef and busboys. The delightfully over-caffeinated Puck (Brandy Wykes) is constantly whipping out a steno pad on which he takes notes from the leather jacket-wearing Oberon.

Fairies flit throughout the play, and their sheer number is what allows children's involvement in the show. Children (and the occasional adult audience member) are invited up onstage to take part in the group scenes. They are welcomed with open arms by the fairies, who all do excellent work guiding the children. The fairies also rev up the energy in the theater, clapping along and chattering amongst themselves.

Sometimes, however, the fun gets a little overwhelming, as the chorus chitchat can draw too much focus away from the main action. Particularly when trying to keep kids following the story line, distractions like these are dangerous.

Some actors failed in making the material accessible, while others were wildly successful. Some actors were funny but lacked the overt comedy that's needed in shows for kids. The actors who were triumphant in their efforts

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