Theseus, who gets all the “exasperated dad” lines in Shakespeare’s trippy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, informs us “the lunatic, the lover and the poet are of imagination all compact.” In other words, some types of crazy make you see what you want to see. So which made the Classic Stage Company casting decisions for its desperately lopsided production? An inspired poet must have chosen neodrag sensation Taylor Mac for Puck—his drawling asides add immeasurably to the mayhem. And there is a kind of love in choosing Bebe Neuwirth for Titania, since her ageless charisma might have overcome her textual discomfort. But it was a lunatic who chose Shakespeare rookies Halley Wegryn Gross for Helena and Christina Ricci for Hermia. Despite effortful gymnastics from swains Demetrius (Jordan Dean) and Lysander (Nick Gehlfuss), these two simply screech and mug.
Clearly director Tony Speciale had plenty of ideas: a leaning mirrored wall disgorges petals and Puck, and there’s an elaborate drug-culture comment in the fairy costumes that I never quite understood. Some conceits work—like Demetrius should totally be played as an a cappella–singing asshole in boat shoes. And some of the casting makes perfect sense, like trusty Steven Skybell as a roaring, confident Bottom and the gliding David Greenspan as a nearly silent Francis Flute. Thank your twinkly stars the second half belongs almost entirely to the mechanicals: They give us fond memories to leave on.—Helen Shaw