Oberon Theatre Ensemble and director Elowyn Castle have provided an elegantly entertaining look at "Twelfth Night" that in its best moments was a frequently delirious evening, and at its worst was never less than professional and well-acted.
And yet as elegant and frothy as the evening was, Castle and crew seemed hesitant to fully explore or exploit the underlying themes of sexual confusion inherent in the gender-bending plot. Part of the problem lay in the fact that there were absolutely no sparks, sexual or otherwise, between Patrick Melville's cool Orsino and Rebecca Damon's even cooler Viola. Brad Fryman came the closest with his understated approach to Antonio, his scenes with Sebastian (Jordan Meadows) seething with a quiet, confused passion. (Not to take anything away from Fryman's Antonio, nor William Laney's blustery Sir Toby, but one can't help wondering how this usually ebullient performer would have fared as Sir Toby instead.) Jane Courtney was brilliant as a mercurial Olivia, her actions and reactions all revealing a remarkably intelligent comedienne working at full capacity. Her rendering of the line "wonderful moment" was hilarious, topped only by Malvolio (the sinister and slimy Daniel Hicks)'s entrance in those awful yellow stockings. (Wonderful costuming uncredited). Stewart Walker's Sir Andrew stole the show every time he blundered on stage and opened his mouth, while Erik Baker's highly physical, highly textured take on Feste kept the evening moving at a furious pace. Denise Verrico, doing double duty as both set designer and Maria, succeeded at both jobs with easy, breezy flair, and Fryman's mostly white lighting worked well in giving the production the look of a glorious day on a beautiful tropical island.
"Twelfth Night" is not one of the Bard's easier productions to pull off - the recent high-powered production at Lincoln Center attested to that - and Oberon have acquitted themselves admirably. One just wishes that they had gone a little deeper into the deliciously dizzy possibilities engendered by the sexual confusion and hypocrisy that run rampant through the text. (Also featuring Eric Parness, Nick Sakellarios, and Christine Verleny.)
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Copyright 2000 Doug DeVita