A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM Send This Review to a Friend
Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is ripe for fooling around with, whether making it wild or searching for its dark side. The Classic Stage Company veers to the wild side, unleashing a cavalcade of slapstick and assorted effects piled on to the hilt.
The result is a mix of pleasure and exhaustion, as after a while one may tire of so much shtick. But you are never bored with the Bard in this mayhem of mirth directed by Tony Speciale and choreographed by George De La Peña.
I don’t recall a production in which orgasmic sounds emanate from underneath a blanket as Titania (Bebe Neuwirth) and Bottom (Steven Skybell), with his ass’s head, are supposedly having sex. On a more sublime note, in a coup de theatre an enormous shower of rose petals is unleashed at one point, covering the stage and spreading into the audience. Rough and tumble physicality is another ingredient, with Hermina and Helena mounting the shoulders of Demitrius (Nick Gehlfuss) and Lysander (Jordan Dean) and tugging at each other in a battle royal as the bare-chested men, who look very much alike, gallop around the stage.
Christina Ricci plays Hermia and Halley Wegryn Gross is Helena. Both actresses are built on the slight side and are quite cute. Their voices are another matter, more cutesy than carrying Shakespearean strength. But Ricci and Gross are as full of spirit as they are easy on the eyes.
Among the men, Anthony Heald is the most imposing as Theseus and Oberon. He speaks in an authoritative manner backed by a strong voice and impeccable articulation. Taylor Mac makes an amusing Puck, outrageously costumed in keeping with the outré nature of this production.
It is always enjoyable to see Bebe Neuwirth, who also plays Hippolyta, and she cuts a regal figure in her mostly restrained work here, creating an island of class in the sea of exaggerations. You may get a kick out of Skybell as Bottom and David Greenspan as Flute. The cast as a whole contributes to the vision of this ultra-imaginative staging. Costume designer Andrea Lauer goes to town with her range of creations The set, designed by Mark Wendland, is attuned to the intimacy of the CSC theater that makes one feel close to characters and what’s doing on stage.
You are not likely to see as broad a production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” elsewhere. At the Classic Stage Company, 136 East 13th Street, $75-$80. Phone: 866-811-4111 or 212-352-3101.