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Shakespeare's bustin' out all over

A Midsummer Night's Dream Comedy by William Shakespeare. Directed by David Jones. The revival of "A Midsummer Night's Dream" by the BAM Theater Company is on the whole more earthbound than airborne. Yet the close to three-hour excursion to Athens and its nearby enchanted forest offers some pleasant diversions along the way.

If Oberon and Titania figure somewhat less than vividly in one's impression of this "Dream," the cause may be the mounting itself. Artistic Director David Jones's fairy grove is a darkling woodland where murk passes for moonlight. The reliable Brian Murray plays Oberon with metallic irony. There is an apparently intended lustiness in this fairy king's relationship with Sheila Allen's sensuous, beautifully spoken Titania. The fairy attendants seem more mundane than the mortals, and they are not helped by designer Santo Luquasto's tattered cobweb costumes. These hop-skip-and-jump hobgoblins seem more closely related to Macbeth's Witches than to the Faerie Queen.

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As the Helena of the quartet of spellbound lovers, willowy Laura Esterman creates a portrait of unrequited infatuation turned to outraged loathing. Miss Esterman tunes her comic pitch to Helena's rising desperation as the hapless lady's real and imagined grievances accumulate. Her plight becomes a matter of genuine concern to the spectator, which is no small achievement. Of the other Athenian runaways, Joe Morton plays Lysander with cavalier style and brio, while Don Scardino (Demetrius) and Beth McDonald (Hermia) bring up the ranks.

The production as a whole is straightforward enough. Led by Gerry Bamman as the incorrigibly hammy Bottom, what Puck (Ted Sod) calls the "hempen homespuns" strive industriously to entertain Theseus (James Harper), Hippolyta (Cheryl Yvonne Jones), the courtiers -- and the audience. Their clumsily earnest efforts were appreciated by the Sunday matinee audience with whom I watched the play. The costumes identify the period of the Brooklyn "Dream" as casually Cavalier. The settings are picturesquely all-purpose. The Jones approach includes those bawdy bits by which trendy directors prove they are with it.

Concerning the overall progress of the BAM Theater Company as an institution, Mr. Jones rightly considers its second season too early for definitive appraisals. A personnel turnover of about 50 percent in the 32-member company complicates the task of assessing its quality. Mr. Murray and Miss Allen continue to contribute indispensably to the caliber of the troupe. The "Dream" performances cited above indicate some of the strengths among the younger BAM players.

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