Gregory G. H. Rihn (milwaukeesfs) wrote,
Gregory G. H. Rihn

Optimist Theater, "Twelfth Night"

As soon as the e-mail came through that Optimist Theatre was again going to be presenting "Free Shakespeare in the Park" this year, I put in my reservation and scored tickets for Sunday the 18th. The evening performance was once again staged in a courtyard at Alverno College, although this year with the positions of the playing area and the audience reversed, so that the actors would have a bit larger and more flexible area to work in.

"Twelfth Night" is a sentimental favorite of mine, and I am always glad to see another production of it, especially one as good as this. Although there were not as many of the 'big guns' of Milwaukee's acting community on stage this time, the mostly young cast was excellent and gave us a very fine show.

Georgina McKee was quite charming as Viola/Cesario and costume, makeup and hairstyle in her male disguise were referential enough to the appearance of Clayton Hamburg as Sebastian to be good comedy. Alison Mary Forbes as Olivia gave a nice performance of the young woman awakened out of her grief by the strange charm of "Cesario." The other paricularly strong characterizations were by Todd Denning as a very John-Cleese-like Malvolio; Dan Katula as a thouroughly rogueish Sir Toby Belch, and Ron Scot Fry as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, who would not have been at all out of place as a member of Bertie Wooster's "Drones' Club." (The play was done in early 20th-century costume--19-teens or so, which worked well.)

Everyone else was quite good in support. The performances I had most to quibble with were those of Marcella Kearns as Maria, and Tom Reed as Feste, although some of this may have been directoral choice. I've seen a number of productions that give Maria most of the lines belonging to the otherwise superflous character Antonio, which makes her much more of a co-conspirator and would-be equal in mischief with Sir Toby. As it was done, she got to act out only her spite towards Malvolio, which made the eventual revelation of her marriage to Sir Toby fall rather flat. Reed as the jester was given a characterless outfit of work clothes and duster that did not at all go with his role as privleged character to both Olivia and Orsino. Reed's interpretation gave us a very common-man view of the goings-on which were not quite either edgy or antic enough for my taste.

But, as mentioned, these are quibbles. We are very fortunate to have this excellent company doing free Shakespeare in our community, and it is to be hoped that future productions won't be "shipwrecked" by our miserly and backward state government's cuts to arts funding.

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Tags: shakepeare, theatre
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