Amid the inundation of outdoor Shakespeare over these far-from-balmy summer months, let's call this "air-conditioned Shakespeare." And in 100-degree-plus heat, that's not at all a bad way to take in a play you've seen 100-plus times. So the delightfully climate-controlled Lost Studio has opened its summer festival of the Bard with a polished production that's not particularly inspired but not at all bad.
Director Justin Eick's hand is very apparent in this Midsummer, a would-be magical romp in which willful lovers, clueless laborers, and mischievous fairies collide by moonlight. Eick has gone very Elizabethan, and with a traditional setting lifted straight from the stages of the Old Globe (Eick) and sumptuous costumes (Eick and co-producer Carrie Ann Pishnak), it looks grand. The uneven but earnest cast has taken his stylistic approach to heart, and it's all got a comic veneer of Warner Bros. meets Catskills that sometimes works wonderfully, in particular the obligatory knock-down drag-out of the wrongfully wooed in the woods. Pishnak and Jennifer Hoyt (another co-producer) are funny and bright as girlfriends Helena and Hermia; Ethan Keogh and Patrick Curran play their heart's desires, Demetrius and Lysander.
The focus of this gag-filled production is the antics of the working class who fancy themselves an acting troupe; led by the assured Richard Large as Peter Quince, there are plenty of predictable laughs. Rachel Earle, Grant Gorrell, Justin Wheeler, and Jaymes Wheeler are all charming, and as Bottom, a very appealing Jeremy Guskin's outrageous cartoon choices are in keeping with the laughs-at-all-cost direction.
Those darn fairies fare less well. Although Damian D. Lewis is a commanding Oberon, odd casting finds the nonspritelike Justin Scheuer struggling as Puck, and the beautiful Alyson King isn't quite up to the challenge of Titania. However, it's a lovely thing to see young actors--and audiences--being introduced to Shakespeare, and as the kickoff for the Lost Studio's summer festival, this Midsummer is certainly mounted with care and professionalism. Oh, and did I mention it's air-conditioned?
Presented by and at the Lost Studio, 130 S. La Brea Ave., L.A. Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 3 p.m. Jul. 6-29. (323) 933-6944. www.summershakespearela.com.