The Oregon Shakespeare Festival opened its 2008 season with a play they've done 10 times before, Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," a magical comedy that audiences always enjoy. And there is much to enjoy in this robust production. It's a visual delight from start to finish. And it is graced with an outstanding cast who never lets the pace slacken.

Director Mark Rucker has clearly put his stamp on this production. So has scenic designer Walt Spangler. There's an almost amusement-park ambience to Spangler's metal structures decked with bright circles and spikes of neon lights. We're not in Kansas anymore. But we're not in Athens (where the play is set) either. We're in what Rucker describes as "a fictional 20th century world that selects aspects of modern culture from the late 1950s to the early 1980s."

This world comes complete with a Cindy Lauper/Bernadette Peters Fairy Queen, a disco-like sound track, hand-held mics and plenty of singing and dancing. The fairies get a lot of laughs and a lot of stage time performing their highly choreographed dance numbers. Their playful energy creates much of the liveliness in this vigorous production, even if it seems calculated more for our amusement rather than to tell Shakespeare's story. At times, the director's concept of Puck seems imposed uncomfortably on John Tufts. But both Puck and the play carry delightfully on.

Michael Elich gives us an urbanely nuanced Duke Theseus who could have stepped out of "The Sopranos." The lovers are delightfully young and impressionable and the roles are ably carried. Hermia (Emily Sophia Knapp), Demetrius (Christopher Michael Rivera), Lysander (Tasso Feldman) and Helena (Kjerstine Anderson) take their "he loves me he loves me not" foolishness into the woods where Duke Theseus' Court and Athenian law can no longer bind them. But the denizens of woods are ruled by their own Court, that of the Fairy King Oberon (Kevin Kenerly) and his queen, Titania (Christine Albright). Kenerly and Albright are evenly matched for their power on stage and quickly convince us that they do indeed rule the forest &

and the world of the mortals. And they have such cool costumes.

The earnestness and comraderie of the mechanicals, Bottom and company, win our hearts and make their silliness all the more pleasureable. Ray Porter gives us an amiable Bottom who moves in and out of all the worlds of the play with absolute ease and considerable humor. His cohorts have some rich moments in this production, none the least of which is arriving in the woods in a VW bus.

Puck tells us that, "Those things best please me that turn out preposterously." This show is preposterous alright. And that's exactly why audiences love it and come back to see it again and again.