Its success helped to persuade Michetti to make the leap into full-time stage work-the first of many risks he would take. The most daring of these was his 1997 production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Captivated by the idea of setting the play in colonial India, he spent about three years researching the idea, finding ever more parallels between the Bard's fish-out-of-water story and life during the British Raj. When he couldn't find a theater company willing to get behind the idea, he and another producer pulled together about $40,000 to present it at the Stella Adler Theatre in Hollywood.
The production re-envisioned the warring fairy king and queen as the Hindu gods Rama and Sita, and Puck as Rama's pranksterish half-human, half-monkey henchman, Hanuman. The queen's fairy attendants were portrayed by Indian rod puppets. In the mortal world, the young lovers and their stuffy fathers became British colonists; the stage-struck mechanicals were Indian tradesmen.
The show lost all of its investment but paid off in positive reviews. "This is a rich, multilayered production," wrote Times reviewer Jana J. Monji, while Richard Scaffidi, writing for Drama-Logue, called it "a rare sensory treat, completely memorable in its original choices and an awful lot of fun."
The show went on to win four Ovation Awards, including production and direction honors.
Last year was Michetti's busiest yet, beginning with an acclaimed production of Stephen Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd" that prompted its co-star-Amanda McBroom, a songwriter ('The Rose'), singer and actress-to declare Michetti a director of "very unique vision." Other highlights included "What's Wrong With Angry?" for the Celebration Theatre in Hollywood and "Bent to the Flame," a one-man show about Tennessee Williams presented off-off-Broadway.
So far, 2001 has been even busier, especially during the overlap of "Edward II" and the musical "Titanic." 'All I did was work on those shows," he says, "sleep when I could, and take care of the bare minimum of doing my laundry and paying my bills'-the latter of which, he joked, tended to arrive with "pink things inside them."
"Edward II'-Brecht's adaptation of Christopher Marlowe's drama about the doomed 14th century English king-was a pet project that Michetti proposed to the Circle X company, of which he is a member.
He staged the play in a huge box filled with ground-up bits of tire, to simulate soil, as a means of symbolizing the many trials that King Edward wades through and to allow for Edward's male lover, Gaveston, to dig his own grave, as called for in the text.
Michetti's next show, "Titanic," took him from the earth to the sea in the biggest production of his or Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities' careers. The $750,000 production of the 1997 Broadway musical involved a cast of 37 and a set that soared more than two stories to replicate the ill-fated ocean liner.
Coming projects include a semi-staged concert of "Porgy and Bess" for the Pasadena Pops orchestra, June 29-30, and a production of Mark St. Germain's 1993 play "Camping With Henry and Tom" for McCoy Rigby Entertainment at La Mirada Theatre, Oct. 12-28.
In "Poet's Garden," the yearning Marie must make choices and take chances before her life can change. The same has been true for Michetti, particularly when he gambled on that breakthrough production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream."
"We're always faced with that other path and 'what if?' " Michetti says. "Some people take the leap, and others don't."
'POET'S GARDEN," Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave., Los Angeles. Dates: Previews Tuesday and Wednesday, 8 p.m. Opens Thursday at 8 p.m. Regular schedule: Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Ends June 3. Prices: Previews, $12.50; regular run, $25. Phone: (310) 289-2999.