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Hooray for ‘Hollywood’

The Brooklyn Paper
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The Heights Players’ latest production, “Shakespeare in Hollywood,” is solid and reliable — like an iambic pentameter straight from the Bard.

The entertaining play, which runs through April 19, is the story of a sophisticated film director striving to make his magnum opus — in this case, a version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — under stifling conditions created by nearsighted studio executives driven solely by the bottom line, and a Puritanical watchdog who’s fighting to tone down the allegedly lewd plot.

But wait, that’s not all. Things really get hairy when Oberon and Puck from the actual Shakespeare play magically appear on the studio set.

As in the actual source material, love triangles and bedlam ensue (this is Shakespeare via Tinseltown — did you expect anything else?).

The Brooklyn Heights community theater group cobbled together a talented cast for this version of the 2003 play commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Tony Paterniti warmly plays Max Reinhardt, the cantankerous Austrian director. Dean Schildkraut couldn’t have portrayed a more uptight Will Hays of the decency squad if he had a wire hanger in his suit jacket.

And there’s no wonder why the enchanting Carly Howard as Olivia, an up-and-coming actress in Reinhardt’s film, captures the heart of the displaced Oberon, himself a domineering, sweet-talking monarch played by Christopher Lee Short.

The play is filled with jokes and the audience on Sunday chortled at many of them, but the script went to the well a little too often for some laughs.

Case in point, there’s one character who plays an actor in drag for much of the performance, but his repeated efforts to get a laugh by adjusting and readjusting his fake bosom grew tiresome. Then again, sometimes it works perfectly, as when Shirley Temple makes perfectly timed cameos, including one when she stumbles onto the stage — icepack on head — after a night of debauchery at a studio executive’s manse.

But even in those few moments when the gags fail, there’s little time to notice. The plot moves briskly, actors file in and out from all over the black box theater and it’s on to the next scene all hurtling towards a Shakespearean climax, comedic of course. All’s well that ends well.

“Shakespeare in Hollywood” at the Heights Players [26 Willow Pl. between Joralemon and State streets in Brooklyn Heights, (718) 237-2752] through April 19. For info, visit www.heightsplayers.org.

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