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REVIEW: ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ looks lovely

midsummers043012_optChristina Ricci, Bebe Neuwirth and Taylor Mac head a high-spirited company

BY MICHAEL SOMMERS
NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM
OFF BROADWAY REVIEW

Pink blizzards of rose petals and a tilting wall that mirrors the magical doings of Shakespeare’s comedy are among the key visual elements that make Classic Stage Company’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” such a memorably lovely production.

Opening on Sunday at Classic Stage, director Tony Speciale’s well-considered staging is ravishingly designed and agreeably performed by a 13-member company whose high spirits mask occasionally patchy acting.

Amusingly dressed (and undressed) alike, the cute likes of Christina Ricci and Halley Wegryn Gross are perky as the little Athenian misses paired off with identically buff Jordan Dean and Nick Gehlfuss as their swains. Their intimately physical Abercrombie & Fitch entanglements look sweetly sexy even when their vocals tend to be sing-song-y.

The only other actor who depicts a single character is the ever-expert Steven Skybell, who exuberantly portrays Bottom as a hambone with flavorful acting chops.

Everyone else doubles their roles – they even triple in the case of the not-so-rude mechanicals played by David Greenspan, Rob Yang, Erin Hall, Chad Lindsey and James Patrick Nelson, who silently serve as waiters in the opening scene and also pop up as the fantastically-dressed fairies.

Wildly garbed by designer Andrea Lauer as a pink elephant and Alice in Wonderland, among other guises, Taylor Mac is a giddy Puck who suggests radical Haight-Ashbury funkiness. In a striking directorial touch in the comedy’s closing moments, Mac’s contrasting character as the crabby dad Egeus proves to be separated from his Puck by merely a smash of cake in his face. neuwirthBebe043012_opt

Typically cast as two different ice queens, Bebe Neuwirth thaws ever so nicely as the Amazon princess Hippolyta and as the bustier-clad Titania. Anthony Heald confidently effects Neuwirth’s transformations in his Theseus/Oberon modes.

Speciale puts an unexpectedly serious spin on the usually slapstick “Pyramus and Thisby” sequence, which lends a touch of melancholy to the merriment of this lively “Midsummer.” Mark Wendland’s setting, Tyler Micoleau’s patterned lighting and subtle, jazzy music by Christian Frederickson and Ryan Rumery provide further enchantment for this enjoyable rendition of Shakespeare’s eternal comedy.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” continues through May 20 at Classic Stage Company, 136 E. 13th St., New York. Call (866) 811-4111 or visit www.classicstage.org.

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