So, one time I got to interview Bebe Neuwirth about Midsummer Night's Dream. The production was fantastic, and so was she. Big surprise, right?
Like an unimaginative lover on Valentine’s Day, theater companies like to throw around rose petals. It’s always the same: a single petal drifts from the ceiling, then a second, then a flurry. At the Classic Stage Company’s new production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the petals start when Bebe Neuwirth’s Titania asks her fairies for a lullaby. What starts as a gentle shower turns into a deluge, as though the petals were being sprayed by a leafblower, and finishes with the fairies dumping grocery bags full of them onto their queen. The solemn cliché turns to satire, and the audience chortles as Ms. Neuwirth drifts off to sleep, to spend the next few scenes buried under a six-inch pile of petals.
“Last night I had a hot flash while I was under there,” the actress said during an interview with The Observer last week. “Fifty-three-year-old women readers will know that it’s no fun having a hot flash under a bushel of petals. I was laughing at myself, thinking, ‘Oh, wow. I hope none of these petals melt into my flesh.’”
Hot flashes aside, Ms. Neuwirth looks every inch the fairy goddess. As the production rockets from slapstick to sublime, she is its anchor—a woodland monarch who maintains dignity no matter how silly she gets. This strikingly funny take on one of the world’s most-produced plays, which opens April 29, is only the latest in a string of sharp productions by a company whose imagination, A-list casts and impossibly scarce tickets have, in the past few years, won it a place at the top of the Off-Broadway hierarchy. If CSC ever falls from grace, it won’t be Bebe’s fault.