A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, Footsteps Theatre Company. Playing off one of the great ironies of Western theater–that all those great female roles Shakespeare created were written for men who specialized in playing women–this all-female version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream works surprisingly well. Not because the premise is novel; at Footsteps all-female versions of Shakespeare (Hamlet, Richard III, and Romeo and Juliet in past seasons) are becoming old hat. But because director Jean Adamak has coaxed some of the clearest and most natural line readings from her actresses I’ve ever heard. Her cast understands exactly what they’re saying, why they’re saying it, and how they can best communicate that knowledge while keeping the rhythm of the line.

The serious moments in the play–Lysander’s anger, Demetrius’s jealousy, Helena’s feelings of rejection–work every bit as well as the comedy, and the comedy just soars.

The production isn’t perfect. Laura Fisher is great as Demetrius, and Rebecca Herman is dead-on as the imperious but mischievous King of the Fairies. But Dawn Alden’s Lysander is kind of wimpy, and Alison Vesely isn’t a very convincing Theseus (he seems less a great conqueror than a Doris Day wannabe.) But these are minor flaws in a production that makes Shakespeare’s language laugh and sing.