SHOWING : June 27, 2006 - July 20, 2006
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
Shakespeare's gender-bending romantic comedy. Featuring Courtney Patterson as Viola, Crystal Dickinson as Olivia and Chris Kayser as Malvolio.
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]
Present Mirth, Present Laughter|
Thursday, June 29, 2006 ||
Herewith are twelve fine reasons to partake of GSF’s marvelous new “Twelfth Night”:|
(1) THE SCRIPT. This is one of my favorite Shakespeares (this is my fourth foray into Illyria, not counting all the videos, movies, and modern adaptations). It has passion, hidden desire, fops, clowns, prigs, music, magic, and mayhem. And it has some of the most beautiful language ever uttered on a stage.
(2) THE PRODUCTION. Every note is hit right, every moment rings true, every character is alive. The pace, the design, the acting -- All is right in this Illyria.
(3) THE SET: Almost a completely bare stage, which, under the evocative lights, becomes a beach, a park, a walk, a room, a prison, a mansion, a church. The only decoration is a set of two identically shaped trees, surreally shaped like single-matrix strains of DNA, or, perhaps, a single double matrix which has been separated. Obvious symbolism, yes, but also evocative of Orsino’s claim that “So full of shapes is fancy / That it alone is high fantastical.”
(4) THE CONCEPT: Dressing the characters in a potpourri of ninetheenth century styles left me wondering how the concept would handle Malvolio’s “yellow-stockings cross-gartered” scene, obviously a style not evident in the period. The solution is both clever and hilarious. And, to be politically incorrect, casting Orsino and Olivia with African-American actors made Illyria seem more exotic to Viola and Sebastian, and also let Feste look like a reject from a “Lion King” commercial – a choice I liked very much indeed (after all, would Feste really accept a role in such a bawdiness-free Disneyventure?).
(5) ORSINO: For once, we don’t get the standard dull and pining Orsino. In Brandon Dirden’s capable hands, we get a fully realized character, aware of the absurdity of his position, surprised at his affection for “Cesario,” even showing an occasional flash of wit. This is humor far above the low comedy of Sir Toby, based more on self-depracation than on physical (or drunken) schtick.
(6) SIR TOBY: Last week, I took Bruce Evers’ Polonius to task for a lack of energy. He more than makes up for it here. His Sir Toby Belch is a powerhouse of drive, filled with bawdiness and stout, charming us as he charms his nemeses. He captures a real poignancy in some moments, then blasts out of it like the proverbial bull in the lingerie shop.
(7) OLIVIA: Crystal Dickinson is lovely, vibrant, and truly worthy of Orsino’s devotion. I feel your wonder and excitement, Sebastian!
(8) VIOLA: I positively adored Courtney Patterson in the central role. She was driven, funny, sad, and carried her emotions just below sleeve level, right where they belonged. Her disguise should have fooled no one, but its success has more to do with her conviction (and the other characters’ willingness to accept surface “reality”) than with any design shortcoming. Her reunion scene with Sebastian (a scene by which I tend to judge all “Twelfth Night’s”) was moving and perfect.
(9) THE KISS: Not to give anything away, but …. Once you’ve seen the play, you’ll know what I mean.
(10) THE FIGHT: Chris Ensweiller has once again choreographed a marvelously funny fight scene between Viola and Sir Andrew. They say it’s harder (and deadlier) to effectively convey incompetence, but all concerned carried it off with finesse (or, more accurately, lack of finesse).
(11) SIR ANDREW: While I’m on the subject of young Mr. Ensweiler, he brought all his comic skills to the fore with his portrait of Sir Andrew, the fop without a clue. Far from a caricature, this was a funny and sad person who hit a complete spectrum of emotional color.
(12) MALVOLIO: Last and best, Chris Kayser is quite simply the most perfect Malvolio I’ve seen. His every word drips obnoxious oiliness, he stole every scene he was in, and he interacted perfectly with Sir Toby and Olivia. His comeuppance is funny, but it doesn’t lose that edge of sympathy it needs to truly sing. GSF’s last “Twelfth Night” was slowed by a less-than-perfect Malvolio; this time, he literally makes the production soar.
If Shakespeare be the food of life, play on;
Give me excess of it, that surfeiting,
Our humor may quicken and so fly.
This play again! It has a soaring grace;
O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Lifting and giving color. More! Much more!
‘Tis much more sweet now than it was before.
O spirit of life, how quick and fresh art thou,
That nothwitstanding thy capacity
Receiveth as the sea, all enters there,
Of such validity and pitch that e’er
Our burdens fall like dark forgotten dreams
That fade like smoke. So full of shapes is this,
That pseudocritics fade into the mist.
-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)
[POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]
| || Oh I get it... by line!|
| Pseudocritics never die, they simply fade into the mist...|
If that's true, what happens to actual critics? Hmmmm?
| || "Real" Critics by Dedalus|
| They stop thinking about theater and publish little "fill in the blanks" forms (note Curt Holman's "Review" this week).|
| || by EKFricke|
| Hi Brad:|
it's a bit late for me to add a comment to your review - seeing as how I saw this production about a month ago on a preview night. But as I read your comments, it clears the dusty synapses of my brain (such as it is) and I feel compelled to add my two cents... (uh oh)
I enjoyed the show every bit as much as you did, I think - but I can't be quite as profuse in my praise. Perhaps if I hadn't seen a preview night, I could. I suspect that they were finding their footing on stage and in their pacing.
A caveat - I tend to nit-pick shows when I have high expectations from the theater company, though :-).
I disagree on the "double helix of DNA" - I didn't find that it leant anything to the production. In fact, I personally saw it as a distraction. I liked that it broke up the horizontality on the stage, but I think it was a bit too "stylized" when the rest of the set & costumes were fairly straight forward.
I agree with you whole heartedly on the casting - I thought all actors did a great job. However, I thought the pacing was a bit slow at times and it was sometimes hard for me to understand Crystal Dickinson's diction - but these are quibbles, really - the show was top notch.
Finally - I disagree with you on Orsino. I didn't care for the comic portrayal. You liked it because it was a new take, I diliked it because I'm a bit of a traditionalist. :-) I just could not reconcile how sensible Viola would fall for someone so silly.
I agree Malvolio stoe every scene, but generously. I never saw a more respectful crew... no hamming, no milking laughs... if there was upstage action, it was timed beautifully so as not to "upstage" anyone else.
Anyway - I really did have a blast - and I encourage others to go see it. Then you can post and tell me if *I* am right or if Brad is! ;0)
| || by StaceyLucas|
| "I just could not reconcile how sensible Viola would fall for someone so silly."|
Did you see Brandon without his shirt on? I'm just saying... :-)
(disclaimer: Marketing Director for GS)
| || Parry by Dedalus|
| 'Allo Liz -- I loved how you put together your review -- you should post more often.|
Well, I can certainly understand your reactions. I was watching the actors "warm up" before the performance, and I thought, "Uh-Oh" because of diction issues. But when the show started, I had no problems understanding any of them (and, because it was a full house, I watched from the back of the balcony). This, to me, is the "acid test" for diction. Clarity!
As for Orsino, this is either an "agree to disagree" point, or maybe some schtick that was turned down after the preview. I've always found "traditional" Orsinos, with their pining ultra-seriousness to be a drag (and wondered what Viola ever saw in them). I didn't find Mr. Dirden's interpretation silly and clowning in the least, but full of a self-depracating wit that was actually charming. Maybe an insider who has seen his characterization develop could answer this question. (BTW, I'm sorry, Stacy, but I would have rather seen the ladies shirtless . :-)))
| || Parry & Thrust by EKFricke|
| Ok - my comment title is getting a little too risque, methinks! Grin.|
We must agree to disagree on Orsino. We are like David & Maddie on Moonlighting and we haven't ever met!
And Stacey - I did notice Orsino's manly hotness! Smmmmokin'!
Cheers - I'm off to figure out when I can see Hamlet before it closes!
| || Parry, Thrust, and Lean Back With a Cigarette by Dedalus|
| (Sorry, I couldn't resist) ....|
[REVIEW THIS PRODUCTION]