William Shakespeare continues his years-long reign at the movies. Recent seasons have seen new film versions of the Bard's Romeo and Juliet, Othello, Hamlet and The Taming of the Shrew (set in a high school and retitled "10 Things I Hate About You"). And upcoming films due in 1999 include "Titus," Julie Taymor's take on Titus Andronicus, and "O," another version of the jealous Moor's story. And then there's the blockbuster, "Shakespeare in Love," an original tale in which the immortal playwright is the central character.
The cinematic Shakespeare adaptation of the moment is "William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream," directed and "written" by Michael Hoffman and starring a wide array of film and theater stars. Hoffman -- adhering to the common directorial compulsion to realign the time frame of the Bard's works -- has set the play in late-19th-century Tuscany.
Heading the cast is Kevin Kline as the foolish weaver, Bottom. No stranger to Shakespeare, Kline has appeared in Measure for Measure, Henry V and two versions of Hamlet, starring in both and directing one.
Michelle Pfeiffer, playing Titania, is the film's leading movie celebrity. Roughly a decade ago, Pfeiffer played Olivia in a star-studded, though not particularly well-received, Central Park production of Twelfth Night. Pfeiffer's films include "One Fine Day," "Married to the Mob," "Frankie & Johnny" and "The Fabulous Baker Boys."
The play's quartet of star-crossed lovers are played by Closer star Anna Friel (Hermia), "Ally McBeal"'s Calista Flockhart (Helena), Christian Bale (Demetrius) and Dominic West (Lysander). Rupert Everett plays Oberon, David Straitharn (Ashes to Ashes) is Theseus and Stanley Tucci ("Big Night") is Puck. The comedy's rustics are played by a sextet of theater stalwarts. Aside from Kline, there is Roger Rees (The Misanthrope, The Uneasy Chair) as Peter Quince, Max Wright (Ivanov, Twelfth Night) as Robin Starveling, Gregory Jbara (Victor/Victoria) as Snug, Bill Irwin (Fool Moon) as Tom Snout and Sam Rockwell as Francis Flute.
-- By Robert Simonson