A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM, Court Theatre. Shakespeare’s romantic romp would seem the perfect choice to light up a gloomy Chicago winter. But romance has its scary side too–at least as this classic is imagined by director Laszlo Marton. Of course, a nightmare is every bit as good as a dream for teaching muddled mortals a lesson, but Marton seems more interested in stage pictures than in vocal harmony or intellectual coherence. Todd Rosenthal’s luminescent set, Jordan Ross’s rainbow-hued costumes, and T.J. Gerckens’s delicate lighting are breathtaking, but even actors accomplished enough to know better display an annoying propensity for breaking lines in midsentence and scrubbing their speeches of all but minimal inflection.

The result is a treat for the eyes if not the ears. Scott Parkinson’s Puck droogs it up like one of the Clockwork Orange boys, Michael Chaban’s Oberon broods as if he were playing Hamlet, and Matt DeCaro’s Buddha-bellied Bottom is bashfully ingenuous. Despite Robin McFarquhar’s inventive comic choreography, the young lovers’ passion sometimes escalates to an intensity that would portend bloodshed if this were a tragedy (though Wendi Weber’s dweebish Helena is so appealing we wish Shakespeare had written the play about her). Probably no one here intended to transform A Midsummer Night’s Dream into King Lear, but we leave the theater as dazed and whipped as if they had.

–Mary Shen Barnidge