Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Twelfth Night"

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note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Larry Stark


"Twelfth Night"

by William Shakespeare
Directed by Rick Lombardo

Scenic Design by Janie E. Howland
Lighting Design by John Malinowski
Costume Design by Jana Durland Howland
Props Design by Heather Edwards
Music by Steve Barkhimer
Stage Manager Johnie Steele

Orsino..........................................Jeremiah Kissel
Curio/Sebastian...............................Weston Walls
Valentine/Antonio..........................Everett O'Neil
Viola...........................................N. Rose Liberace
Sea Captain/Malvolio/Officer.....Richard McElvain
Sir Toby Belch......................................Ken Baltin
Maria.......................................Dorothy Brodesser
Sir Andrew Aguecheek...............Doug Lockwood
Feste.........................................Steven Barkhimer
Olivia..............................................Rachel Harker


Rick Lombardo and his New Repertory Theatre have given us a production of "Twelfth Night" that groundlings would adore. The cast knows they're funny, and invites the audience in on their jokes --- playing as much to them as to one another. And with such a supple, smart, inventive cast, their enthusiasm is infectious. It's full of bawdy language, bawdy body-language, takes and winks and japery and energetic leg-shakings, and several whirlwind love-stories. Shakespeare is alive again, with laughter.

The audience is tipped to what they're in for when Ken Baltin's Sir Toby Belch pauses to slap his own cheek introducing "Sir Andrew Ague(slap)cheek". Any device or reading or pratfall is fair-game, so long as 'tis fun. In fact, that slow-witted Sir Andrew is played by a beanpole named Doug Lockwood whose legs take on a life of their own in dancing, as well as in running from duels. But the sparkplug of this trio is the broad, bubbly bawd Maria, played with indecently delicious gusto by Dorothy Brodesser. With her egging them on, Sir Andrew and the overindulging Sir Toby are a rowdy, rollicking trio ready for any sport and eager even to outfox one another.

The target they all take aim at is Richard McElvain's haughty steward Malvolio. He is still, imperious, glacial --- the exact opposite of his three gadflies. They trip him, trap him, drive him near mad by preying on his egotism, and take delight in watching his downward sprawl.

With all this flurry, it's a wonder the love stories aren't upstaged --- but they're not. Jeremiah Kissel's Duke Orsino is much more hot-blooded than pensive here, pining in unrequited love for Rachel Harker's black-swathed Olivia. The messenger of his love-plaints has called herself Cesario the eunuch, though she'd rather have Orsino's love for herself. N. Rose Liberace plays this dissembling Viola as not quite believing she can carry off the charade.

There is, in fact, almost a Buster Keaton delicacy about her playing, just as there's a touch of Chaplin's balletic buffoonery to the comedians. But each of these ten actors are solidly, comfortably, exuberantly, physically at home in their characters --- so much so that they all seem to be dancing to the music of Shakespeare's lines. And, since it is the music of love, and laughter, play on!

Yet there is music, too. Rick Lombardo is always sensitive to the music or sounds in his productions. Here he has asked Steven Birkhimer, playing Feste the clown, to introduce or accompany snatches of dialogue on a clarinet, to lead round-songs with a guitar or even a ukulele, and to start act two not with a tabor but a big base drum. This original music, onstage or off, is always in synch with the action at hand --- even when punctuated by the squeak of Feste's pinched red-rubber nose..

Jana Durland Howland's costumes run to the college blazers and golf-pants and the elegantly draperied gowns of the early '20s. Janie E. Howland's single set is all cushions and draperies, featuring three peripatetic lawn-statues of cupids that may have taxed Heather Edwards' props-budget just a bit. All of it, like the acting, is just this side of over-the-top, and there's a slut-red night-gown for Maria that.....

Well, you'll just have to see it four yourselves. It's just one of a myriad delights that make Shakespeare new all over again.

Love,
===Anon.


"Twelfth Night" (till 11 April)
NEW REPERTORY THEATRE
54 Lincoln Street, NEWTON HIGHLANDS
1(617)332-1646

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