note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Beverly Creasey
Reviewed by Beverly Creasey
Feste, the clown, in "Twelfth Night" complains that the word 'element' is overused in the English language. Sorry, Mr. Feste but director John MacKenzie has combined all the elements (music, lighting, set, slapstick etc) for a truly delightful evening of theater.
"Twelfth Night or What You Will" assembles a crowd of lovers and would be lovers, then sorts out the couples, ending with three weddings (no funeral). This is Shakespeare at his comic best, send up the gentry and bursting the balloons of pretentious social climbers.
The chief puffinjay is one Malvolio, secretary to a lovely lady who everyone, it seems, wants to woo. (Christine Hamel plays her so graciously you can see why.) When the lady's uncle (a rogue who spends all this time carousing) and some cohorts trick Malvolio into thinking the lady could be his, Jason Myatt manages to fold his brows over his eyes and strut like a peacock at the notion that "greatness has been thrust upon him." Myatt is so deliciously duped that we're actually sorry he's been deceived.
The other deluded climber is one adorably silly knight and since I judge a Twelfth Night by its Sir Andrew, I'll tell you that Eric Houghton is now one of my two favorite Sir Andrews (the other was 20 years ago at Stratford, Ontario). Words just melt in his mouth, he's so sweet.
The pleasures of MacKenzie's (often wacky) Twelfth Night are many: Hamel, Houghton and Myatt and more. Richard Rininsland's Feste is a raucous British rocker of a Fool whose Shakespearean version of a Van Morrisson ditty alone is worth the visit, as is MacKenzie's original music for the traditional Shakespearean songs. Michelle Aguillon makes Viola into a charming "boy" --- and speaking of pants roles, the Hovey production has several which work perfectly. It's actually turnabout fair play since all the roles in Shakespeare's day were played by men. Shannon Allen and Ann Carpenter are standouts as men. Michael Corbett is a dashing Duke Orsino and Kate Mahoney a daring prankster. And what fun Gordon Ellis has with his good fortune. Only Geoffrey Pingree ventures a bit too far over the top as Sir Toby.
Michele Boll's trompe l'oeil ivy trails its way around the stone pillars and walls making the tiny Hovey space into a vast Elizabethan formal garden. You can almost feel the rough fibers and the rich textures in Meghan Frazier's sumptuous period costumes, lit in MacKenzie's warm light. Hovey has indeed mastered "the trick of singularity" -- I'm still chuckling over the shenanigans in this unique Twelfth Night.