Brandy Wykes and Margaret Curry in Fools in Love

(Photo © Alan Kaplan)
Brandy Wykes and Margaret Curry
in Fools in Love
(Photo © Alan Kaplan)
This time of year, productions of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream start popping up like beach balls, but most revivals of the classic don't feature pre-show face-painting, hula hooping, stage combat, and other forms of audience participation. Millennium Talent Group's Fools in Love does, and it proves that introducing children to the classics doesn't have to be like pulling teeth. In fact, during the opening night performance, the kids had so much fun that they wound up literally dancing on the stage, and it looked as if many of the adults wanted to join in.

Forget about ancient Greece. This rollicking version takes place in the town of West Athens, California during the sock-hopping days of the 1950s, but it mostly keeps true to the original script. Hermia and Lysander are in love, but the girl's father (nicknamed "The Duke of Earl" in this account) wants her to marry Demetrius, who's being pursued by Helena. So they all run away to a mysterious forest, where mischievous spirits interfere with their plans. Oberon, the fairy king who's dressed like the King of Rock & Roll, gets his servant Puck to use a "Love Potion #9" to properly match the teenagers. But the plan goes awry: The girls try to scratch each other's eyes out, and the boys start dueling with deadly sharp rulers!

This fanciful production features some of the most enthusiastic young actors working in New York. They greet audiences by blowing bubbles when they enter, and then charm unsuspecting theatergoers with their magic wands even after the show ends. A doo-wop group peppers the action by singing such Golden Oldies as "Wake Up, Little Suzie," "I Will Follow Him," and "Stop in the Name of Love." Titania and her minions are decked out in brightly colored angel wings and plenty of glitter. In addition, this production's "rude mechanicals" perform the play-within-a-play with the right amount of over-the-top outlandishness.

For a more contemporary classic, turn to Antoine Saint Exupery's The Little Prince, which comes to the Pelican Studio Theater from July 6 to 31. It follows a young aviator who's crash-landed in the African desert, where he finds a prince from a faraway planet who takes him on amazing, intergalactic journeys. They visit the world's tiniest planet, and encounter such strange creatures as a many-armed businessman who collects the stars of the sky. An eight-person international ensemble takes on all of the characters.

Walk Two Moons has nothing to do with space travel, but, like The Little Prince, it deals in life lessons. A teenaged girl named Salamanca tries to find out what happened to her mother (who has disappeared), while on a cross-country trip with her eccentric grandparents. Along the way, she remembers the similar story of her imaginative friend Phoebe Winterbottom, and both girls learn about the definition of family and the necessity of change. Julia Jordan's adaptation of Sharon Chreech's Newbery Medal-winning book premieres July 13 for a month-long run at TheatreWorks' new home: Off-Broadway's Lucille Lortel Theatre.

Lastly, Abrons Arts Center presents Youth Theater Festival 2005, a three-day event (beginning on July 14) that enlists 17 teen performance groups, including such family theater mainstays as TADA!, Urban Youth theater, and All Stars Project. Sure to be highlights of the festival are Impact Rep's Harlem Is, which recounts the history of the famous neighborhood; Albany Park Theater Project's Saffron, a dance theater work about the immigrant experience, as told through the eyes of the staff and customers of a Persian restaurant; and Creative Arts Team's Closer to Home, about conflict resolution.