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Short Shakespeare! "A Midsummer Noght's Dream"

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Gary Griffin's 75-minute version of the Bard's craziest comedy is an irresistible introduction not just to Shakespeare but to the world of theatrical make-believe. The touchstone of this gracefully goofy retelling is the play within a play "Pyramus and Thisbe"--a sort of miniature Romeo and Juliet. However inept the acting by hopeful thespians desperate to please, they're driven by the same impulse that produced the mismatched lovers, feuding fairies, and elegant classical couple at the center of A Midsummer Night's Dream. We're transported to the roots of theater, as are young audience members seeing Shakespeare for the first time. Griffin's efficient but never ruthless condensation is also hip, athletic, and energetic, a family-friendly concoction employing such anachronisms as color-coordinated luggage for Hermia and a beeper for Puck (a hyper Brian Hamman); Brad Eric Johnson's buff, imperious Oberon wears a skirt made of power ties, and the entranced lovers bob their heads to a rap rhythm initiated by Puck. Bradley Mott (who alternates with Sean Fortunato as blowhard Bottom) brings down the house, while Lamar Lewis is hilariously demure as a muscular Thisbe. Bob Garrett performs Andy Jones's delightful percussion score. Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand, 312-595-5600. Through May 29: Saturdays, 11 AM. $15; $10 for children.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Michael Brosilow.

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