Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Well, let's say dark chocolate, for there is a streak of melancholy running through the show, which is otherwise one of the Bard's frothiest concoctions, chock-a-block with separated twins, headstrong lovers, clueless nobles, cross-dressing confusion, and a most insightful fool.
In the opening scene, the Duke Orsino is pining for the Lady Olivia, hoping tunes played by his court musicians will quiet his longing: "If music be the food of love, play on; give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die." For Olivia, still mourning the death of her brother a year earlier, refuses all suitors. Meanwhile, on the nearby coast, twins Viola and Sebastian are shipwrecked, each thinking their beloved sibling drowned beneath the waves. Viola takes on the guise of a man, seeking employment in Illyria, leading (natch) to Lady Olivia's falling instantly in love with him/her.
The fun really gets going once Olivia's uncle, Sir Toby Belch, and his drinking buddy Sir Andrew Aguecheek make their appearances. These twodeftly (and hilariously) played by Daren Kelly and Michael J. Humebring the waggish aspects of the text straight to the surface. With their comically prominent codpieces flaring in front of them, these two are led by their twin passions (wine and women) to sow chaos wherever they go. Hume's skillful and hysterical portrayal of drunkenness is a highlight of the eveninghe's an Elizabethan Foster Brooks. Adding to the fun is a marvelous performance by Jeremy Vik as Feste. A skilled acrobat and juggler, Vik brings a circus flavor to the proceedings, yet blends his athleticism smoothly into his actions, and his interactions with the rest of the cast. Finally, kudos to John Abbot Gardiner for his wonderful portrayal of Malvolio.
Director Currier has done an excellent job of bringing out all the comic silliness of the play and has heightened the joyously ribald nature of Twelfth Night. In addition to the Big Gulp-sized codpieces, there is groping aplenty, copping of feels, tweaking of nipplesand no entendre goes undoubled. Currier was well assisted by costume designer Abra Berman and set designer Jackson Currier, who created moat-like ponds at either side of the stage, as well as spinning walls and hidden elements that make the set as flexible as some of the characters' genders.
While some performances are lacking, the laughs are not, and an evening under the stars is just the ticket for this midsummer night's dream of a show.
Twelfth Night runs through August 21, 2016, at the Forest Meadows Amphitheatre, 890 Belle Avenue, San Rafael. Show times are 8:00pm Fridays and Saturdays, and 4:00pm and 8:00pm on Sundays. Ticket prices are $35 general, $32 senior, and $10 for youth 25 and under. More information is available by calling 415-499-4488 or by visiting www.marinshakespeare.org.