The press release advertising this musical adaptation of Shakespeare's comedy is accurate when it says "This hilarious Villa troupe of players is likely to make Shakespeare turn over in his grave."
The poor man must be spinning.Not only is his play gutted to include 30 original songs of various quality and tone, but there's a complete recipe for tragedy here - just in what's been done to his script.
There's a Zena warrior queen and her court, plus a little Mitch Miller sing-along and a healthy dose of Barney added to a "Waltons' Home Christmas"/"Saturday's Warrior" type of finale.
There are more songs than any musical should ever have to support, a cellular phone call from "Little Caesar's," a Miss Utah gown on the queen, the lion from "Wizard of Oz" and even a Hollywood director complete with shades, windbreaker and megaphone.
It's more than enough to jar one's sense of propriety and decorum.
The only thing missing in the Villa Theatre's musical version of "Midsummer Night's Dream" is dignity of purpose.
Everything else has been tossed in with abandon.
And although there's some natural raw enthusiasm from the large, mostly young cast, it's tough to see Shakespeare so mishandled. In fact, it's really quite painful.
Marilyn Brown, who adapted the play to music, freely admits she eliminated "a lot of long speeches" in her attempt to make the play "totally accessible to everyone."
It also dilutes the story so much it becomes cartoonish and bland.
The only time it starts to recapture some of the richness and color is when the Shakespeare text is left alone. The few moments of pristine verse are the best parts.
"Working with Shakespeare was like hearing a funny voice from the hereafter," said Brown, prior to the play's opening.
Fortunately for Brown in this case, it's probably a good thing that dead men tell no tales.
Shakespeare may take umbrage, for instance, at a sing-along that has "A diddely, diddely, dee" in the chorus. (Besides, it's asking a lot for an audience to read lyrics in the dark from a program printed on green paper.)
He probably would take offense at Brown's free hand at "improving" his dialogue.
However, to be fair, not all of the show is problematical.
Helena, played by Leah Hursman, is wonderfully talented. Hermia, played by Heidi Boyd, has a lovely voice.
The twin Pucks are entertaining and quite magical in their rapid-fire appearances.
The small tots who play young fairies are fun to watch.
Costuming, for the most part, is pretty well done, although there's definitely an Aladdin costume mixed into the fray and the Zena warrior leather skirts for the court ladies.
However, the set is somewhat tacky with trees painted on boards that don't line up right, ragged overstage netting and a rock that just about tips Puck over when he jumps upon it.
Some actors tangle and just plain miss lines, then step out of character to retrieve them.
Sometimes the action - particularly between the confused sets of lovers - becomes frenetic to the point of distraction.
The play within a play during the wedding scene becomes absolutely pointless after it gets too silly to believe.
By the time one gets to the finale, "Bless This House," this show has gone way over the edge, and there are still a couple more ditties to endure.
This is a production that, admittedly, had a goal almost beyond reach at the outset. Anytime one assumes one can improve upon the Bard, there's a pretty grandiose assumption and a considerable risk.
One takes on changing something that has stood for centuries and is still being studied and admired for its depth and brilliance.
It kind of smacks of someone deciding to add teeth to the Mona Lisa smile to improve the painting.
Judging from this bizarre result, Brown overreached.
Please, don't do it again.