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Ross Valley Players Timeless Twelfth Night

Ross Valley Players present Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night
Thursday – Sunday, September 28-October 21, 2018
Ross Valley Players Barn Theatre
Review by Kelli Fleitas
Ross Valley Players present Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night at The Barn Theatre in Ross, proving that Shakespeare transcends all time.  Set in the early 1900’s Shakespeare’s comedy is seamlessly paired with vaudevillian comedy and victorian era ballads with mayhem galore.
A romantic comedy, the story involves a Titanic-era shipwreck off the coast of mythical Illyria where Viola washes ashore without her brother, who she mourns is lost at sea. Viola attempts to survive by pretending to be a young man and finds employment as a page (Cesario) for Illyrian nobleman Duke Orsino.  The Duke spends his lazy days pining for Lady Olivia, who refuses all advances while mourning her brothers’ death.  Juxtaposed to Olivia, in her household are her rowdy, drunkard uncle Sir Toby, his dippy friend Sir Andrew, Olivia’s witty gentlewoman Maria, Malvolio, her prudish, dour steward and the resident jester of Illyria, the cunning Feste.  Tragedy turns comedy as Viola secretly falls in love with her employer, Duke Orsino – while the Duke longs for Olivia, and Olivia loves the disguised Viola (Cesario).
The staging is well done with a Victorian – era mint green back screen, stained glass window and greenhouse.  The music choices support the story and mood and is clearly thought out.  Costumes reflect the time and refrain from pulling the attention away. Then again, when Viola charmingly played by Robyn Grahn with great facial expression, is on stage with the grand and fiery Olivia played by Melanie Bandera-Hess, who’s noticing scarves or ruffles?  Michel Benton Harris as Sir Andrew owns the stage when he enters, a combination of dynamic energy, colorful facial expressions, and physicality, seemingly in his element with the Shakespearean fete.  Maria, played by Mary Ann Rodgers,  a gentle but confident gentlewoman whose practical joking I was grateful to be in on, and who’s performance captures you as the story unfolds. Fabian played by Sonia Gambhir holds her own in the energetic comic trifecta with Sir Toby and Sir Andrew, rounding out the group and giving a natural performance.  Feste’s clowning and cunning mind is well timed and well played by Sarah McKereghan.  Steve Price doesn’t disappoint with a vivid and larger than life Sir Toby.
Even the playbill is stunning. Don’t miss this well-cast, clever night of comedy!   This adaptation will appeal to all ages.   Ross Valley Player’s Victorian themed interpretation of the play with well-orchestrated bedlam is directed by Jennifer Le Blanc.
Tickets: Rossvalleyplayers.com, 415-456-9555
September 28-October 21, 2018