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Shakespeare's Dream finally becomes a wonderful reality

It's with the mechanicals that Hoffman shows the common touch. Kline makes Bottom lovable, complex, and humanly convincing. Handsome with an edge of shabbiness, he's a fatuous ass even before he's transformed, and he's authentically romantic even with donkey's ears growing out of his head. And his speech after he awakes is a spine-tingler.

Is there something Kline can't do? He probably can't suffer like Harvey Keitel or Robert De Niro, and, though his classic turn in A Fish Called Wanda showed he's one of the great comic villains, his boyishness probably won't allow him to pull off serious villainy until he's older. Other than that, there can be few actors alive without grounds for envying him.

The other mechanicals get less to do but take advantage of what they get. Roger Rees is a diplomatic Quince; wonderful Max Wright, attended by a sweet little terrier, is a put-upon Starveling; and Bill Irwin's Snout and Gregory Jbara's Snug provide what is needed from them. Hoffman's most inspired piece of invention, though, is allowing Flute (Sam Rockwell) to become a good actor in his final speech as Thisbe. It cuts the froth with a whisper of romantic poignancy, and it chases away four centuries of aristocratic patronization.

William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Directed and adapted by Michael Hoffman. Starring Kevin Kline, Stanley Tucci, Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Everett, Calista Flockhart, Anna Friel, Christian Bale, Dominic West, David Strathairn, Sophie Marceau, Sam Rockwell, Roger Rees, Max Wright, Bill Irwin, Bernard Hill, Gregory Jbara, and John Sessions. Opens Friday.

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