The American Shakespeare Center does Twelfth Night every few years. It’s popular and definitely a staple for a Shakespeare company. The last time they did it was the Fall 2008 season, which I saw twice and discussed here and here.
This time, Daniel Kennedy is Malvolio, and he’s hilarious (although in the 2008 production, John Harrell played this part and he’s a hard act to follow). Benjamin Curns is quite good as Toby Belch (James Keegan played that part last time around). Gregory Jon Phelps is a terrific Duke Orsino, and his scenes with Miriam Donald (Viola/Cesario) are very touching. Tyler Moss is perfect as Sebastian and Sarah Fallon stands out, as usual, in the part of Olivia. John Harrell this time is Feste, the fool, which he plays with a world-weariness that deepens that character for me. It’s not all laughs for Feste. Chris Johnston is Sir Andrew Aguecheek, in one of his strongest roles ever. Allison Glenzer is Maria, Denice Burbach is Fabian, and Rene Thornton Jr. is Antonio, and all do fine work in their parts.
As usual, the musical numbers during the pre-show and interlude were outstanding and this time both “halves” of the show were introduced by songs that led directly into the action, which was very effective. I love listening to these performers sing and often wish I knew what songs were being performed since I often don’t recognize them. (The song that Phelps and Donald sing just before Orsino’s “If music be the food of love, play on,” speech, for example, was one that I’d like to find.)
This show marks the beginning of the 2010 Actors’ Renaissance Season during which the company performs five shows in rotating repertory, without directors or costumers, and with very little rehearsal time. They are now beginning to work Doctor Faustus into the rotation and later will add The Alchemist, Henry VI, Part 2, and The Roman Actor. I’ll see them all, at least once.
(Side note: I ran into old friends at the theater today, folks I’ve known since I lived in Singapore in the 1980s. They’re now near Charlottesville and come the Blackfriars frequently!)