The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1465  Thursday, 22 July 2004

From:           Richard Burt <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>
Date:           Wednesday, 21 Jul 2004 08:42:07 -0400
Subject:        Twelfth Night in LA

July 21, 2004

'Twelfth Night' hits the beach - Venice, that is
The beach town provides a colorful canvas for this crowd-friendly
rendition of the Bard's beguiling comedy.

'Twelfth Night'
Where: Shakespeare Festival LA at South Coast Botanic Garden, 26300
Crenshaw Blvd., Palos Verdes
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays
Ends: Aug. 1
Price: Free, but reservations required
Contact: (213) 975-9891
Running time: 2 hours, 25 minutes
By Rob Kendt, Special to The Times

Sunny, funny and light on its feet, Shakespeare Festival LA's new
"Twelfth Night" sets the action in a convincing approximation of Venice
- not the town of Shylock and gondoliers but our own slightly
disreputable pocket of sun-kissed beach-bum bohemia.

With its whiplash juxtapositions - wealth and poverty, glitz and trash,
creativity and recreation - L.A.'s Venice provides a colorful dramatic
canvas for director Jason King Jones' crowd-friendly rendition of the
Bard's beguiling comedy of confused desire and capering mischief.

Katia Kaplun's expansive painted set sketches the setting's stark beauty
like a mural in 3-D; freeways and radio towers frame the promenade, with
the set's pointed pinnacle subtly evoking a circus tent. Trevor Norton's
lights capture the glare of SoCal sunshine, and some of its duskier
shades too. After a short run in Pershing Square, with the downtown L.A.
skyline looming all around, the outdoor show moves to South Coast
Botanic Gardens this weekend.

It's Feste (Cedric Hayman) who rules this beachfront property. He wakes
up on a bench with his guitar and starts up Nina Simone's "Feelin'
Good," attracting an impromptu jam session while skaters and joggers
reel by. Appearing later in a ratty feathered cap and motley coat, Feste
proves himself a particularly apt fool, spinning out puns and puzzles
with the dexterous precision of a juggler and sampling a range of
soulful tunes as the occasion demands.

With a play so full of assorted pranks and pratfalls, it's something of
a feat to keep Feste's foolery at the forefront, but the irresistible
Hayman is up to the challenge. Without stealing focus from the play's
intertwining plot lines, he earns more comic mileage per line than any
Feste in memory.

Jones imagines the love-struck Duke Orsino (Geoffrey Lower) as a kind of
spoiled bachelor tycoon, with an entourage to furnish his background
music and schlep his art supplies around the beach in case inspiration
strikes. For Olivia (Judith Moreland), the unmoved object of Orsino's
affection, he conjures a wealthy African American household, with a
retinue more inclined to quiet dignity.

That is, except for Olivia's uncle, Sir Toby (Harold Surratt), a tall,
no-account idler in a leather jacket who can't stay off the sauce.
Though a likable enough rascal, Surratt doesn't shy away from Toby's
essential unpleasantness - a crucial but often overlooked element of
this pathetic troublemaker's arc, which descends from irrepressible
ribaldry to drunken disgrace as his schemes crash like a hangover in the
light of day.

As the more or less deserving victim of one such scheme, Olivia's
officious steward Malvolio, Tim Choate plays his scenes like a virtuoso;
he starts with a knowing scowl of self-love before rocketing to the
heights of misplaced ecstasy with startling shrieks of joy. He wears his
yellow-stockings get-up (costumes by Linda C. Davisson), a shiny gold
gym suit with a corset-laced front, under a long black coat, like some
kind of flasher dandy.

For all its assured strides, Jones' production does miss some steps. The
play's melancholy undercurrent emerges most strongly from Feste and
Toby, the show's preeminent clowns, rather than from its two mourners,
Moreland's Olivia and Bridget Flanery's Viola. You'd never know from
their breezy performances that both recently lost loved ones to untimely
deaths (we glimpse a photo of Olivia's late brother in military blues).
Both fare better as lovers, banking their passion for unattainable
objects with convincing ardor.

Kila Kitu makes an appealingly sassy maid Maria, and Bryan Cogman plays
Aguecheek as a cheerful walking target in golf casuals. In two of the
play's more thankless small roles, Leon Morenzie gives the pirate
Antonio a salty West Indian flavor, while Will Owens' towheaded
Sebastian is an appropriate twin for Flanery's Viola. Messaline, the
town they hail from, must be somewhere in the Corn Belt.

Young Midwesterners blowing into a town full of transient hustlers,
self-styled artists and matter-of-fact affluence? It's so L.A., dude.

S H A K S P E R: The Global Shakespeare Discussion List
Hardy M. Cook, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
The S H A K S P E R Web Site <http://www.shaksper.net>

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