05/14/2012 01:54 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Theater: Bebe Neuwirth Still Looks Dreamy in "Midsummer"

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM ** 1/2 out of ****

The Classic Stage Company's production of Shakespeare's bauble A Midsummer Night's Dream has an eye-catching set and an eye-catching cast in various stages of undress. If you've ever wanted to see an Abercrombie & Fitch model recite verse in their underwear (and who hasn't?), this is the show for you. Run and catch it before it closes on May 20. But the visage you're most likely to remember is that of the lithe and self-assured Bebe Neuwirth, commanding both physically and theatrically in dual roles as the fairy queen Titania and the slightly morose Hippolyta. She moves with grace and speaks her lines with authority, matched moment to moment by Anthony Heald's Oberon/Theseus (a very lucky man, indeed).

I'd say Neuwirth is sexy despite the costumes of Andrea Lauer. Shakespeare's tale of young lovers put at cross purposes by a mischief-making Puck (an over-exuberant Taylor Mac) is certainly one that encourages a free spirit in all areas. But her costumes are a little broad and jokey for my taste, even in this context. Still, Neuwirth looks wonderful, even in a silly leather dominatrix outfit.

I certainly won't fault Lauer for stripping the lovers down to their smalls. It's a good way of distracting us from the fact that Christina Ricci, Nick Gehlfuss, Jordan Dean and Halley Wegryn Gross are all more confident cavorting about than turning the verse of Shakespeare into natural-seeming dialogue.

That's presumably why director Tony Speciale has them bouncing about and wrestling and tackling and tumbling over one another throughout the long night where lover after lover is bewitched into switching their passion. Equally broad are the rude mechanicals, the local buffoons led by Nick Bottom (Steven Skybell) who simply want to rehearse their woebegone play in the woods, only to have Bottom turned into an ass and become the paramour of Titania.

This is not a production for insight but it is handsomely mounted. The set design by Mark Wendland is especially striking. It features a wall of mirrors tilting gently over the stage and beautiful touches like a shower of flower petals that also became amusingly bounteous at one point. The lighting and sound by Tyler Micoleau and M. Florian Staab worked together seamlessly to create the pastoral magic this work calls for.

A special round of applause for the music of Christian Frederickson and Ryan Rumery. Songs are peppered throughout the play and I've rarely heard them given such beautiful musical settings or sung so well as they are here. (On a similar note, Jordan Dean has a very amusing running gag as Demetrius where he delivers some of his lines in a quavering, r&b crooner style; a goofily funny touch that wasn't overdone.) When it sings, this Midsummer soars, but even at its most earth-bound it's an amiable night of theater.

The Theater Season 2011-2012 (on a four-star scale)

The Agony And The Ecstasy Of Steve Jobs ** 1/2
All-American **
All's Well That Ends Well/Shakespeare in the Park **
Assistance **
The Atmosphere Of Memory 1/2 *
Blood Knot at Signature **
Bob *** 1/2
Bonnie & Clyde feature profile of Jeremy Jordan
Broadway By The Year: 1950 ** 1/2
Broadway By The Year: 1997 ** 1/2
Carrie ** 1/2
The Cherry Orchard with Dianne Wiest **
Chinglish * 1/2
Close Up Space *
Clybourne Park *** 1/2
Crane Story **
Cymbeline at Barrow Street Theatre ***
Damn Yankees **
Death Of A Salesman with Philip Seymour Hoffman ** 1/2
Dedalus Lounge * 1/2
Early Plays (Eugene O'Neill at St. Ann's Warehouse) *
End Of The Rainbow *
Ernani at Met w Angela Meade *** 1/2
An Evening With Patti Lupone and Mandy Patinkin ***
Evita * 1/2
Follies *** 1/2
Fragments ***
Galileo with F. Murray Abraham **
The Gershwins' Porgy And Bess *** 1/2
Ghost The Musical * 1/2
Godspell ** 1/2
Goodbar * 1/2
Gore Vidal's The Best Man ** 1/2
Hair ***
Hand To God ***
Hero: The Musical * 1/2
How The World Began * 1/2
Hugh Jackman: Back On Broadway ***
Hurt Village ***
Irving Berlin's White Christmas ***
It's Always Right Now, Until It's Later *** 1/2
Jesus Christ Superstar * 1/2
King Lear at Public with Sam Waterston **
Krapp's Last Tape with John Hurt ***
The Lady From Dubuque ** 1/2
Lake Water **
Leap Of Faith **
Leo ***
Love's Labor's Lost at the PublicLab ** 1/2
The Lyons ** 1/2
Lysistrata Jones *
Magic/Bird *
The Maids **
Man And Boy * 1/2
The Man Who Came To Dinner **
Maple And Vine **
Master Class w Tyne Daly ** 1/2
Measure For Measure/Shakespeare in the Park ***
Milk Like Sugar ***
Mission Drift * 1/2
Misterman ** 1/2
The Mountaintop ** 1/2
Newsies at Papermill **
Newsies On Broadway ** 1/2
Nice Work If You Can Get It **
Ninth And Joanie *
No Place To Go ** 1/2
Now. Here. This. * 1/2
Olive and The Bitter Herbs ** 1/2
On A Clear Day You Can See Forever * 1/2
Once *** 1/2
Once on Broadway ****
One Arm ***
One Man, Two Guvnors on Broadway ***
Other Desert Cities on Broadway ** 1/2
Painting Churches * 1/2
Peter And The Starcatcher *** 1/2
Pigpen's The Nightmare Story *** 1/2
Private Lives **
Queen Of The Mist ** 1/2
Radio City Christmas Spectacular ** 1/2
Regrets * 1/2
Relatively Speaking * 1/2
Richard III w Kevin Spacey at BAM ***
The Road To Mecca ** 1/2
Samuel & Alasdair: A Personal History Of The Robot War ** 1/2
The Select (The Sun Also Rises) ** 1/2
Seminar **
Septimus & Clarissa *** 1/2
Shlemiel The First ** 1/2
Silence! The Musical * 1/2
69 Degrees South * 1/2
Song From The Uproar **
Sons Of The Prophet *** 1/2
Sontag: Reborn *
A Streetcar Named Desire with Nicole Ari Parker **
Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark * 1/2
Standing On Ceremony: The Gay Marriage Plays **
Stick Fly **
A Streetcar Named Desire **
The Submission **
Super Night Shot ** 1/2
Sweet and Sad **
The Table ** 1/2
Titus Andronicus at Public with Jay O. Sanders * 1/2
Tribes *** 1/2
The Ugly One **
Unnatural Acts ***
Venus In Fur ***
We Live Here **
Wild Animals You Should Know ** 1/2
Wit ** 1/2
Zarkana **


Blanche: The Bittersweet Life Of A Wild Prairie Dame *** 1/2
Central Avenue Breakdown ** 1/2
Crazy, Just Like Me ***
Cyclops: A Rock Opera *
Ennio: The Living Paper Cartoon ** 1/2
F---ing Hipsters **
Ghostlight **
Gotta Getta Girl ** 1/2 for staged reading
Greenwood *
Jack Perry Is Alive (And Dating) * 1/2
Kiki Baby ** 1/2
Kissless * 1/2
Madame X **
The Pigeon Boys ***
Time Between Us * 1/2
Tut **


Araby *
The Bardy Bunch **
Books On Tape ** 1/2
Civilian **
Hard Travelin' With Woody ***
Leonard Cohen Koans *** 1/2
The More Loving One **
The Mountain Song *** 1/2
Paper Cuts ***
Parker & Dizzy's Fabulous Journey To The End Of The Rainbow ** 1/2
Pearl's Gone Blue ***
Rachel Calof ** 1/2
Romeo & Juliet: Choose Your Own Ending **
2 Burn * 1/2
Walls and Bridges **
What The Sparrow Said ** 1/2
Yeast Nation ***

Thanks for reading. Michael Giltz is the cohost of Showbiz Sandbox, a weekly pop culture podcast that reveals the industry take on entertainment news of the day and features top journalists and opinion makers as guests. It's available for free on iTunes. Visit Michael Giltz at his website and his daily blog. Download his podcast of celebrity interviews and his radio show, also called Popsurfing and also available for free on iTunes. Link to him on Netflix and gain access to thousands of ratings and reviews.

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