Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

August 1, 2009

Twelfth Night

Shakespeare & Company, Lenox, MA
through September 5, 2009
by Shera Cohen

It's no wonder that "Twelfth Night" is often considered one of Shakespeare's best comedies. Proof of that is Shakespeare & Company's current production. Like other works of the Bard, the plot includes mistaken identity, women dressed as men (this was probably even funnier in the 1500s with male actors dressed as women), love triangles, a shipwreck, and sometimes a pompous idiot. This play has all of these elements down to perfection.

Just by looking at the playbill, it was no surprise that the cast of many Shakes & Co.'s masterful "regulars," director Jonathan Croy, and music director Bill Barclay would mount a clever, quick, and comic play. It never ceases to amaze that most of actors do double-time throughout the summer in dramatic roles in either "Othello" or "Hamlet." The versatility of talent is evident on a daily basis.

Croy, who also wears the hat of set designer, has created numerous scenes that receive audience laughs even before an actor speaks. Think Disneyesque topiary, add unnoticed paper on the bottom of one's foot, and stick it all together with bubblegum. This makes for odd and hysterically funny staging. The lovely actress Corinna May puts her entire body into making servant Maria elegant and roughhouse simultaneously. Elizabeth Raetz (sought-after lady) spews both virginity and lustiness. Robert Biggs (Fool) gives his supposedly drunken character great wisdom. Ken Cheeseman (servant Malvolio) should be unabashedly ashamed and equally proud to well-create one of the most ridiculous roles of a blowhard to appear on any stage. Young actor Ryan Winkles (Sir Andrew) is a man to watch. His comedic timing is flawless as he uses every wink of the eye, scrunch of his neck, and fancy footwork to make Andrew the most memorable character in this large cast.

Slapstick, physical humor, and broad strokes form the canvas of "Twelfth Night." But this is more than a meaningless, laugh in the moment, comedy. While not dwelled upon, the plot includes the definition of love and how men and women feel and think differently.