“Twelfth Night” Friday, Oct.20, Spokane Interplayers Ensemble
Here’s a textbook example of how much fun Shakespeare can be: This production of “Twelfth Night” is utterly delightful, filled with all of the spirit, wit and poetry of good Shakespeare.
I shouldn’t have used that word “textbook.” That word conjures up images of English class and monotonous droning.
Forget that. The enduring image I’ll have of this production is of Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek cavorting around drunk and disorderly, like some kind of Illyrian Wayne and Garth.
This production, directed with fine comic instincts by Michael Weaver, has been blessed with outstanding performances in all of the key comic roles. Topping the list is the goofball triumvirate of Sir Toby (William Marlowe), Sir Andrew (Jonn Jorgenson) and Feste the clown (Gary Pierce).
These three stooges, with help from Maria (well-played by Leslie Gray Krantz), are responsible for some absolutely hysterical scenes. One of these comes when Sir Toby and Sir Andrew decide to wage a duel with Cesario (actually Sebastian - it’s a long story). Jorgenson is priceless as a kind of foppish, hanky-flapping idiot, and when Sebastian (Jim Ferris) brandishes his sword at him, Sir Andrew throws down his rapier and runs away in a fit of knock-kneed, high-heeled hysteria.
Marlowe is a perfect Sir Toby, a round drunkard who looks like an absolute genius compared to Sir Andrew. Neither of these characters are rocket scientists, but Maria, Olivia’s maid, is smart enough to come up with a plan whereby they can all humiliate the sanctimonious scold, Malvolio.
She drafts a letter to Malvolio in her mistress’s handwriting declaring her undying love. The rigid and unsmiling Malvolio, played brilliantly by Cheyenne Wilbur in the production’s finest performance, suddenly turns into a goofy lovestruck boy, smiling like a baboon at Olivia (Erin Merritt) and showing off his natty yellow stockings. Turns out, Olivia detests yellow, and she can’t fathom why Malvolio is grinning at her like an idiot.
Gary Pierce’s Feste, dressed in fool’s motley, cavorts around the scene like a monkey, making observations that are in turns silly and astute. He brings a welcome air of benign dementia to this role.
“Twelfth Night” contains another plot line entirely (spurned lovers, mistaken identities, identical twins, etc.) which sometimes is upstaged by all of the Belch-ian shenanigans. However Jeannette Simpson is totally winning as Viola, who must masquerade as the boy Cesario in the court of Orsino (R. Marquam Krantz).
Simpson brings a remarkable degree of presence and intelligence to this role. Maybe she’s not a very convincing boy, but she is outstanding at cutting through the Shakespearean verbiage and getting directly to the meaning of her lines.
In fact, everyone in this cast does that well, which has to be a tribute to the direction. This production resists the all-too-common urge to pose, to declaim, and to over-act. It contains absolutely no pretension (the sets are minimal). This gives the play more depth, not less.
In this production, more than most, I was able to appreciate the pure poetry of the language. Maybe it was partly because of the excellent diction. But mostly it was because the production sets such an agreeable, festive mood. Play on, I wanted to say, play on.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
MEMO: For tickets and showtimes, call Interplayers Ensemble at 455-7529.