‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in Central Park – theater review

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — Shakespeare’s kooky combo platter of bewitched couples, trickster sprites and loopy laborers — reminds that the course of true love never runs smoothly.

Happily, the Public Theater’s revival of the classic comedy is a high-spirited hodgepodge that glides along with just a few hiccups and so-so performances.

At 2 3/4 hours, the show comes close to overstaying its welcome. But sustained laughter and amusement compensate. Plus, it’s free — so there’s that.

Everything about this “Dream” is overstuffed — four separate storylines and as many sets of screwed-up lovers. Lear deBessonet, a director known for guiding classic works in a communal fashion, is a good choice for this show.

She has assembled a diverse cast, had them wrapped in Crayola-bright costumes and surrounded the actors with magical trees — and a slide for a silly whoosh of fun.

Annaleigh Ashford, a Tony winner for “You Can’t Take It With You,” is even better than the playground attraction. She oozes hilarity from start to finish as the besotted Helena, who throws herself at hunky Demetrius (Alex Hernandez). Too bad, since he’s hot for Hermia (Shalita Grant). But she only has eyes for Lysander (Kyle Beltran). Again, love doesn’t come easy.

What a girl wants: Helena (Annaleigh Ashford) will do anything to have the man of her dreams, Demetrius (Alex Hernandez).

What a girl wants: Helena (Annaleigh Ashford) will do anything to have the man of her dreams, Demetrius (Alex Hernandez).

(Joan Marcus)

Fortunately, these misaligned mortals get help from enchanted (and enchanting) elves led by Titania (a perfectly imperious Phylicia Rashad). These fairies are no kids. And prankster Puck (a surprisingly subdued Kristine Nielsen) is beyond AARP eligible. The rest are midwinter in the age department. It’s a nice touch that makes you see the sprites with fresh eyes.

Two more standouts are Tony nominee Danny Burstein, who serves up thick slices of ham as Nick Bottom, the weaver and wanna-be actor who becomes Titania’s asinine crush. And Jeff Hiller, an ace comic actor makes a big impression in the small role of the artisan-actor Flute.

An onstage band, featuring a fairy singer (Marcelle Davies-Lashley) underscores the rom-com antics.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” runs through Aug. 13 at the Delacorte Theater.

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