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Marin Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night”—A feast of mistaken identities in the glen

“Twelfth Night,” you might say, is on of Shakespeare’s lighter, goofball comedies.  In pursuit of its humor it draws heavily from his canon of cross-dressing imposters, misdirected sexual impulse, and mistaken identity, all liberally leavened with sly commentary from a jester and a pair of lighthearted drunkards.  There is a shipwreck leaving a brother and sister parted from each other each thinking the other has died, a lord of the manor in love with one who will not have him, a chorus of sailors and chambermaids.  It does have a plot, but the real essence of the play is the wit flowing from all possible sources, given in elegantly woven Shakespearean dialogue.

Any attempt to describe the convoluted plot in few words must necessarily fail, but the actors through their roles carry off the task admirably.  The only one who really knows what is going on is Viola (Elena Wright), who dressed as a boy becomes the boon companion of Duke Orsino (Dean Linnard) while all the while falling in love with him.  And he—in this confusion of gender identities—with her, in a series of carefully interwoven scenes of tender intimacy in which anything could be possible.  He really things and wants to be in love with the Countess Olivia portrayed by Kathryn Smith-McGlynn the Countess Olivia, pursuing with lusty abandon.  The drunken courtiers Sir Toby Belch (Darren Kelly) and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Michael J. Hume) are always together, a tag-team of comic action goaded to ever-higher flights of absurdity by the clever chambermaid Maria (Mary Baird).  John Abbot Gardiner does a turn as the dour priest Malvolio forcing himself to smile, and ultimately led to a humiliating failed seduction in yellow cross-gartered hose.  All the while the fool Feste (Jeremy Vik) entertains us with acrobatics and acerbic wit until the brother and sister, lost in the shipwreck, are reunited, and each of the characters can finally find the love they had always been seeking.

It takes a sure hand to get all of this to make some kind of sense, and turn bring some kind of depth to the droll situations these disparate individuals find themselves.  For that we must thank director Lesley Shisgall Currier.  Special nod to costume designer Abra Berman whose deft touches help to keep all this nuance in line.

More importantly, each of the actors must maintain the continuity and integrity of their characters through the most absurd of situations, as though there were nothing untoward going on at all.  Kudos to this great cast, for leading us into this strange world and making sense of all this confusion, and bringing forth from us unending gales of laughter throughout.  That and plenty of music and song, as we leave the glen humming a cheerful tune.

Five shows weekly through August 21, 2016.

Marin Shakespeare Company  415-499-4488

Forest Meadows Amphitheater, Dominican University.

890 Belle Ave., San Rafael CA 94901

Box Office:

Review by David Hirzel

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