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A Midsummer Night's Dream 

When: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m. Continues through March 21 2009
Price: $12-$17

We've seen are fair share of hip-hop Othellos and modern gangland versions of Romeo and Juliet, but Melissa Hillman's '80s new wave take on Shakespeare's comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream, has no clear antecedent. As it turns out, the '80s theme works divinely. It allows for some terrific slapstick (including several extras, like Demetrius' big, primitive cell phone and an all-out brawl between Helena and Hermia), while amplifying such utterly Shakespearian themes as androgyny, bisexuality, domineering women, cliquishness, and cheesy romance -- all shored up by a wall-to-wall soundtrack of carefully selected new wave hits. The cast in this Impact Theatre production skews young, and it's likely that some of the actors learned about the '80s through movies, rather than real-life experience. Still, their personae are pretty spot-on -- especially Pete Caslavka's punk-rock Puck and Seth Tygesen's preppy Demetrius. Admittedly, Hillman created a little tension between the source material and the '80s theme by allowing cast members to ad-lib some of their jokes. (To quote Snug: "Like, dude, it's not literal.") But overall she takes few liberties with plot -- even in parts where the plot could use some editing. It's campy indeed, but when you think about it, so was Shakespeare. Through March 21 at La Val's Subterranean (1834 Euclid St., Berkeley). 8 p.m., $12-$17.

— Rachel Swan


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