note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Beverly Creasey
A Review by Beverly Creasey
Had they told us that Jerry Kissel (playing rthe Duke) had broken his foot, we might have been saved some confusion at The New Rep opening night. For the whole first act, I was convinced this was some directorial "concept": the Duke being so besotted with the Lady Olivia that he can barely walk. (Add to my fevered brain memories of "A Winter's Tale" wherein Kissel played the lead as a "snake" ... slithering about the stage!) I finally tripped --- no pun intended) to the fact that it was Kissel the actor himself who was limping, and not some diabolical "Richard III" twist to the genial Duke. Ok!
Now try to imagine a Sir Toby Belch from the Borscht Belt, and Olivia from a Now Coward confection, a Viola from, say Ibsen, and a naughty Maria from a bawdy burlesque. Thank heaven for Richard McElvain as a prissy, pinched-nerve of a Malvolio to give this play some focus. Even with a silly Hitler mustache, he managed the perfect union of pompous and pathetic. You should feel by the end of the play that he has been grievously abused, and I did.
Director Rick Lombardo has assembled six of one style and half a dozen others to add up to this patchwork "Twelfth Night" --- and it almost works, except for the Bert Lahr/Brooklyn delivery of Ken Baltin as Sir Toby. He seems to be looking for a comedy club where he could dispense with the rest of the cast.
Doug Lockwood is an adorable Sir Andrew, almost achieving heartbreak in his "dormouse" insistence that he was "adored once, too." Rose Liberace is a valiant Viola, earnest and genuine when others are losing their heads. She's especially impressive in her discovery soliloquy ("She loves me!"). Rachel Harker is cool and aloof as Olivia. But it is Steve Barkhimer who runs away with the show as the multi-talented Fool. Barkhimer's music for the traditional Shakespearean songs ("Hey, Ho The Wind and The Rain" etc.) is so lovely and apt you'd think it was written in 1600. As he says, some of the characters are out of their element ... but as "Twelfth Nights" go, this one has lots to laugh about.