Don’t be Scared-Away by the Name “Shakespeare” on the Ross Valley Players “Twelfth Night” Playbill!

Twelfth Night is a *Must See* Production at RVP.

Whether one is a purist or novice to Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the adaptation produced at the Barn is uproariously understandable. While the cast lines were crisp (where needed) and well-projected, a microphone on each actor would be very helpful, with headsets for those in the audience who are unable to keep up with the dialog at the same time they are trying to keep up with the fast-paced action.

Director Jennifer LeBlanc has an excellent cast (and not type-cast) to carry out the farcical and physical comedy (props and otherwise!)… Kudos to the cast for their fine work and ability to stay in character in the face of such frivolity.

Once seated for the Sept. 30, 2018, performance, we were immediately transported to the early 1900s in the land of Illyria with an attractive, simple, well-organized set (by Tom O’Brien), period music to set the tone (by Music Design by Billie Cox) and Sound Design (marvelous sound effects by Bruce Viera). Throughout this performance, the lighting (by Tina Johnson) was well-timed and purposeful.

From the moment action begins, you’ll be aware of the extraordinary work involved in staying true to Shakespeare’s story line for Twelfth Night while also presenting the lines as he intended and mostly understandable for non-Shakespearean-play-audience ears. (Because there are no microphones and headsets for those in the audience with diminished hearing, the actors must constantly and consciously remind themselves not to speak upstage.)

The marvelous cast (with no weak links) includes: Melanie Bandera-Hess (wonderful in her role as Countess Olivia – serious and hilarious);

Jackson Currier (Orsino, Duke of Illyria, excellent as a pretentious bore who wishes for Countess Olivia’s hand in marriage, but she wants “Cesario” – mistaking him for “Sebastian”);

Ron Dritz (Antonio and sailor); Sonia Gambhir (Fabian and Captain); Robyn Grahn (excellent as Viola and as the male, Cesario); Isabelle Grimm (Valentine; the Priest; and Second Officer); Michael Benton Harris (believable dandy Sir Andrew Aguecheek, companion of Sir Toby Belch); Anna L. Joham (Curio, First Officer, and attending on Duke Orsino); Sarah McKereghan (Feste – the very deft household Clown and Jester); Steve Price (outstanding character actor, playing Sir Toby Belch);  Malcolm B. Rodgers (Malvolio – Steward to and in love with Countess Olivia); Mary Ann Rodgers (Maria – Waiting Gentlewoman to Countess Olivia); Ian Wilcox (Sebastian).

Costumes (by Michael A. Berg) are perfect – and some are easily included in the physical comedy bits.

Prop-Master is an apt title to apply to Tom Obrien’s wonderfully effective props: the mops, mopping pail, badminton net, jester’s hand-horn, the dandy’s teddy bear and pocket mirror, among other spot-on physical comedic objet d’art.

The story is about the adventures of twins Viola and Sebastian, separated after the ship they were on wrecked, and the confusion, misunderstandings, disguises, and love (that wins).  It is also about the hilarious devices used to further confound the confusion.

There are many very funny bits. One can be attributed to Sir Toby Belch, who is a kin to Countess Olivia. He is a stumbling drunkard whose disgusting pickled herring farts and barfs can only make us (almost uncontrollably) laugh. If there is one character actor to be singled out for this performance as “exceptional,” it is Steve Price, with excellent drunken speech, his rolling hips and gross stomach!

That said, there’s enough funness to go around; for example, Sir Andrew Aguecheek and his teddy bear; and Malvolio’s yellow stockings with garter belts on his knees!

Director LeBlanc also makes good use of the House doors and floors, beyond the stage, to bring the audience closer to the action.

By Elle Simon
on behalf of Flora Lynn Isaacson, Critic, SFBA Critics Circle

Production Photographs by Gregg LeBlanc and Robin Jackson

Twelfth Night will run through the closing Matinee on Sunday, October 21st, 2018, with performances on Thursdays at 7:30pm; Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00pm; and Sunday Matinees at 2:00pm.

For tickets to Twelfth Night, go online to www.rossvalleyplayers.com or call 800/838-9555, and tickets for School Groups, call 415/456-9555 extension 1.  All performances take place at The Barn, home of the Ross Valley Players, Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross.

Coming Up Next at RVP will be Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple, Directed by Mike Reynolds and Jay Krohnengold, opening November 16 and running through December 16, 2018.

 

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