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Photo courtesy of Shakespeare Santa Cruz
Wee Aim to Please: The Shakespeare Santa Cruz 2009 Festival Glen set design model for 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' and 'Julius Caesar' by designer Michael Ganio.

A Midsummer Night's Preview

These shadows will not offend, else Santa CruzWeekly a liar call

By Matthew Craggs

DURING the Great Depression, the entertainment industry offered up escapist enjoyment for the masses eager to forget their woes. Economists are too busy pulling the wool down past their foreheads to mutter the "D" word, but we can see history repeating itself--onstage, anyway. This summer the theaters are all about lighthearted laughs and tall tales, with a touch of art-imitating-life backstabbing.

The one place that exemplifies escapism is over the rainbow. Cabrillo Stage brings Santa Cruz the gift of The Wizard of Oz with all the songs that made the film adaptation so popular. Dorothy and the gang travel the Yellow Brick Road with a 20-piece orchestra from July 17 through Aug. 16. Before setting off to see the wizard, Cabrillo Stage goes in search of a more elusive goal--the key to a successful relationship. The musical comedy I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change runs June 26 through July 26 and heralds the return of director Andrew Ceglio from last season's Forever Plaid.

Cabrillo Stage doesn't corner the market on whimsical worlds and fantastical relationships this season. Shakespeare Santa Cruz is reprising the puckish A Midsummer Night's Dream. From July 22 through Aug. 30, the Festival Glen will transform into a decimated forest teeming with fairies and lovers growing out of the ashes. As new life and passion grows from Midsummer's postwar ruins, UCSC's Mainstage takes theater back to its basics with Shipwrecked! An Entertainment--The Amazing Adventures of Louis de Rougemont (As Told by Himself.) Aided by simple theatrical effects, de Rougemont takes the audience on a fantastical journey that weaves a wonderful yarn of globetrotting storytelling. Eric Ting, recently named one of the top 25 directors to watch by American Theatre Magazine, directs this adjective-filled tall tale from July 21 through Aug. 30.

Adjectives may be a great way to fluff up a fable, but they can also buy you precious seconds as you create your next line. Improvfest returns to the Actors' Theatre on Fridays and Saturdays between July 10 and Aug. 1. For theater with a little more structure, but not quite a full production, the Actors' Theatre also hosts regular cold readings. Works in progress and staged readings receive their spotlight with a rotating series of directors and themes throughout the summer months and beyond.

As Dorothy taught us, we all have to go home at some point. Still, when it's time to leave the comedy behind, the summer theater season gives us plenty of reasons not to click our heels together quite yet. Pacific Repertory Theatre on the Monterey Peninsula brings to life the century-old sketches of Arthur Schnitzler's La Ronde. Reworked by David Hare, The Blue Room brings the frank sexual politics of the past into stark realization in the present. Playing May 28 through July 18, the interwoven stories of sexual dynamics are sure to ignite the foggy night sky.

While The Blue Room hits the bedroom, Shakespeare Santa Cruz's third offering of the season hits a little closer to home--perhaps closer than one might think. In Julius Caesar, SSC has chosen a classical story of political power wrangling, imperial impulses and underhanded backstabbing. Budget constraints are making for a shorter season, but SSC's summer offerings lack nothing in potency.

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