A Midsummer Night's Dream
The Seattle Repertory Theatre, 443-2222. Through March 17.

I like crass jokes. I enjoyed There's Something About Mary and can't resist an episode of Married... With Children on late-night television. But when Snout the tinker (Eric Ray Anderson), one of the "rude mechanicals" of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, bent over and revealed to the audience an amazing vision of plumber-style butt-cleavage, I couldn't laugh. At that moment, the entirety of the Seattle Repertory Theatre's lighting and set design smugly proclaimed, "LOOK AT IT! Butt-cleavage! On the stage of the Rep, the most expensive theater in town! What cheek (pun intended)!" This weird, self-congratulatory flaunting of something so cheap and easy killed any joy it might contain.

This tale of meddling fairies, muddled young lovers, and amateur theatrics seemed to be set in the lobby of a glass skyscraper. Oberon (Brent Harris), king of the fairies, looked like a cross between Liberace and Batman. The fairies themselves were apparently auditioning for Cats. The magic-addled lovers wore black leather and tight, brightly colored camisoles, which under the circumstances seemed a marvel of restraint. Everything dripped money, and it wasn't well spent. The actors were pretty good when they weren't being upstaged by revolving doors. Dan Donohue, as Puck, came off best; he managed to find a gentle silliness that kept him from getting lost in the spectacle.

The director Tyrone Guthrie said, "The play loses a great deal of its meaning if it is robbed of a magic which springs, not from the glittering tip of a department-store wand, but from the earth, the stones, the very air of the wood; and a magic which is not merely pretty but dark and dangerous." This quote appears in the Seattle Rep's program; it heard Guthrie's advice, but didn't heed it.