As proof that everything old is new again, the Bard struts and frets his hour upon the stage thrice over this New Year's Eve.
Ensconced in First Night's bustling nerve center at Copley Square, Commonwealth Shakespeare Company present A SHAKESPEAREAN CABARET — a revue of Bard-inspired songs by the likes of Verdi, Cole Porter, Rogers and Hart, and Leonard Bernstein — at the Cathedral Church of St. Paul (138 Tremont Street, Boston; 617.482.5800; stpaulboston.org) at 8 pm and 9:15 pm. Off-campus are two dueling MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM adaptations: the first you can see for free with a First Night Button at the ACTORS' SHAKESPEARE PROJECT's Midway Studios warehouse space (15 Channel Center Street, Fort Point Channel, Boston; 617.776.2200 x225 or RSVP at email@example.com) at 7:30 pm. They've set their version in a gritty urban wilderness, where the fairies aren't just mischievous — they're predatory. Which, we're guessing, couldn't be more different from THE DONKEY SHOW at Oberon (Mass Ave and Arrow Street, Cambridge; 617.547.8300; amrep.org), which channels the coked-up disco hedonism and larger-than-life characters of Studio 54 for its fourth-wall-breaking Midsummer rework. Titania is a mostly-nekkid disco diva; Puck is a gold-lamé-clad roller god; and you, the audience, are smack in the middle of their flake-fueled antics.
Also in the ART's "Shakespeare Exploded!" arsenal is Best of Both Worlds, an R&B take on The Winter's Tale — and you can see it for free, if you're one of the first 100 First Night button-holders to show up at the Loeb Drama Center's 2 pm and 7:30 pm performances.
And if there's one piece of fringe theater you should see before the year is through, it's SLEEP NO MORE (which runs through February 7). For the unfamiliar: British theater company Punchdrunk has commandeered an abandoned school off Route 9 in Brookline to bring forth this demented and surreal version of Macbeth-as-Hitchcock. Told through a series of walk-through vignettes, this immersive production is as much haunted house, Silent Hill cut scene, and Choose Your Own Adventure role-play as it is Shakespeare. And by "immersive," we mean that you might leave Sleep No More with as much blood on your hands as Lady Macbeth. Technically, both Sleep No More and The Donkey Show are sold out tonight (hit up 617.547.8300 or amrep.org for all ART details), but if you're willing to stalk Craigslist, something just might pop up.
Bored of the Bard, but still looking for something equally age-ripened? BOSTON BAROQUE presents a double bill of, and we quote, "sparkling one-act comedies sure to make you LOL" at Sanders Theatre (45 Quincy Street, Cambridge; 617.496.6094; ofa.fas.harvard.edu). This antique gut-buster begins at 8 pm with Bastien & Bastienne, a romantic comedy piece penned by Mozart at age 12 about a lovesick shepherdess, followed by the rather meta romp Il maestro di cappella, which revolves around an absurdly pompous conductor. Just think of it as the Age of Enlightenment's answer to Jim Carrey films. And if you're still having trouble finding the lulz, the intermission Champagne reception — included with your $23 to $69 tickets — might help.