Theatre Mirror Reviews - "12th Night"

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"Twelfth Night"

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Brian McEleney

Costume Design by William Lane
Lighting Design by John Ambrosone
Set Design by Eugene Lee
Sound Design by Peter Sasha Hurwitz
Speech and Voice Direction by Thom Jones
Fight Choreography by Craig Handel
Musical Direction by Jamey Grisham
Production Director Laura E. Smith
Assistant Stage Manager Kristen Gibbs
Production Stage Manager Buzz Cohen

Viola..................Cherie Corinne Rice
Sebastian..............Cherie Corinne Rice
Orsino.....................Joe Wilson, Jr.
Valentine....................Jamey Grisham
Olivia........................Annie Worden
Malvolio....................Brian McEleney
Maria..........................Anne Scuria
Fabian.......................Mauro Hantman
Feste.....................Stephen Berenson
Sir Toby Belch..........Fred Sullivan, Jr.
Sir Andrew Aguecheek........Stephen Thorne
Antonio......................Rich Williams
Officer/Sea Captain......Christopher Berry

It is said that for the first hundred years after it, the birth of Jesus was commemorated on what we now call the 6th of January --- but it was preceded in Rome by the great heathan festival the Saturnalia, which was much closer to the Winter Solstice. And so, it's said, the canny clergy --- who were not above canonizing St. Bridgit, mark you --- moved the Christ's Mass back a dozen days. Some of the faithful resisted this heresy, and even more recently in the Netherlands they save the Real Presents for the original date. And then some rationalized the mess, saying the Jesus born on 25 December was a mere mortal until the mystical gifts of the Magi (earthly gold, the funeral spice myrrh, etc.) converted him into The Christ. And the England of the '90s was such a time when it was a good idea to go with the flow or be burnt as a heretic. But Master Wilm Shagsberd, what never spelt 'is name the same twice, whipped up a goodly comedy to play on that later date, and made the butt of much merriment a stuffed-shirt Puritan like the ones soon to set sail for Massachusetts and cause King and Queen all sorts of bother. Luckily, none of this erudition marrs the glorious romp that Brian McEleney and Trinity Rep are playing down in the sunny southlands of Providence. Bravo!

Their "Twelfth Night" starts out soggy, with bumbershoots and gumboots, until a festive Feste (Stephen Berenson) in a bright-yellow slicker arrives with a plumber's-helper to unstick a backed-up drain and sprinkle songs about (With a hey, ho, the wind and the rain!). But as the flood recedes what's revealed is a mismatched muddle of love-sicknesses spilling over Eugene Lee's drying stage. There's both Joe Wilson, Jr.'s Duke Orsino and Stephen Thorne's Andrew Aguecheek both pining for Annie Worden's disdaining Olivia. There's stately, plump Fred Sullivan, Jr.'s infatuation with Maria's (Anne Scuria's) ample breastworks. There's the sneerful servant Malvolio (Brian McEleney) suddenly smiling in cross-gartered yellow stockinged glory because he thinks Lady Olivia has the hots for him! And bouncing betwixt Orsino and Olivia, loving one and loved by the other, is the quicksilver Cherie Corinne Rice playing Viola disguised as the boy Cesario until he --- I mean she --- reappears as her own brother Sebastian. Ay me, what fools these mortals be!

The company treats the language here not as oratorio but plain speech, and accepts every opportunity to emphasize the bawdy. Sullivan's Sir Toby is a self-assured lover of good sack, and a scintillating swordsman. Contrariwise Rice's Cesario emits a maidenly shriek when first presented with a rapier, yet a moment later her Sebastian has even Sir Toby out-fenced. Thorne's Sir Andrew is a stumbling bumbler in word and foot, making a worthy Stan to Sullivan's Ollie without either one being obvious about it. Annie Worden's blonde Olivia ignore's Orsino's messages, but takes an immediate hot interest in his messenger, all but devouring "his identical twin brother Sebastian" the momenthe appears.

One of the beauties of a genuine repertory company is an easy familiarity among actors who can give to one another as much as bounce off one another. And another is watching players familiar from one role morph into others. Last year Cherie Corinne Rice was one of a trio in "The Maids" at the THE BROWN/TRINITY REP CONSORTIUM; here she has stepped from school to center-stage losing none of her vigorous, irrepressible energy. Makes one wonder --- What's Next?

===Anon. ( a k a larry stark )

"Twelfth Night" (29 January - 7 March)
201 Washington Street, PROVIDENCE RI
1 (401) 351-4242

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide