As I mentioned to friends via email, if you can't shell out for the seats, there's the whole perimeter stone stairway of the amphitheater where you can watch and see the play from a little more distance. The producers are fine with this, but hope you'll make a pay-what-you-can contribution after the show.
While I like this review in general, I must take issue with the reviewer's characterization of me as "mute." In my roles as Curio and the Priest, I speak--count them--forty-two words.
Oh, what a 'Night' for the Bard at HamiltonArticle Launched: 09/05/2007 11:14:01 PM PDTLIKE A FUNNY, surrealist, Kabuki ballet, the North Bay Shakespeare Company has christened its new venue and inaugural season with an undeniable winner in its lusty, new interpretation of "Twelfth Night," William Shakespeare's most sexually subversive of plays.
The Artists Formerly Known as Shakespeare at Stinson, under the direction of MaryBeth Cavanaugh and the ongoing artistic direction of Jeffrey Trotter, have pulled off an across-the-board triumph in their spacious new home, which opened last weekend at the Hamilton Amphitheater in the former Hamilton Air Force base in Novato.
Clearly drawing on her five seasons as a choreographer at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, director Cavanaugh tells her story in modern dress with a cast that moves almost as one - with fight scenes out of "West Side Story" and love scenes like "Swan Lake" - fully disclosing the heavy breathing and wistful sighs often hidden in this play's wildly beating heart.
The masquerading servant with the identity crisis in this case is the shipwrecked Viola, strongly played by Valerie Weak, who washes up on the shores of Illyria to disguise herself as a boy to find employment as a servant to Orsino, the lovelorn duke of Illyria, admirably played with great dignity and operatic flair by Chiron Alston....
As if to take away his audience's pain, Shakespeare wisely provided the raucous comic relief of Sir Toby Belch, an aptly named drunken rogue, played by Kevin Karrick like a lusty Brendan Behan; Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Belch's idiot-in-waiting, played with delightful manic energy by Gendell Hernandez; and the mad steward Malvolio, hilariously played by Clive Worsley, whose preening, prancing and vocal gymnastics bring to mind those of Ed Grimley, the early Martin Short character on NBC's "Saturday Night Live."
This is a wonderful cast with fine performances across the board. Nearly every exit receives an ovation and every entrance a delight. Weak's thoughtful rendering of Viola/Cesario makes her as much the watchful conscience of this play as Jonsson's Feste, who tops his harrowing portrayal as King Richard (from a past SAS production of "Richard II") with this mocking, darkly comic fool.
When Feste sings the famous "come away, come away death" soliloquy (made all the more surreal last Saturday by the fortuitous tinkle of a Good Humor truck that happened to pass by), several members of the audience were audibly moved to tears. Conversely, the chorus of "Smile (Though Your Heart Is Breaking)" - written by Charlie Chaplin as his theme music for "Modern Times" and sung by Feste and several members of the cast - could use a little rehearsal.
As Viola's long-lost brother Sebastian, Bergin gives a surprisingly sophisticated performance for one so young. The same is true for Cara Burgoyne, whose libidinal Maria fills the air with one of the most wicked and authentic stage laughs you've ever heard. Also, Thornton-Alson is quite funny as the fussy, nearly frenetic countess Olivia. Hers is a much more comical take on the role than the usual, dark, scheming variety - a many-layered performance that is at once vulnerable and sly.
Honorable mentions should also go to G. Randall Wright's Antonio, an oddly noble Spanish buccaneer, and violinist Paul Festa, whose mute presence as the violinist (doubling as the priest) often set the production's tone - as did the ideal music selection of Elvis Costello's work with the Brodsky String Quartet, "The Juliet Letters," which ended Act One, and the starkly miniminalist set design by Rick Ortenblad, drawn from a palette of black, red and gray.
This is some of the most haunting, powerful, funny and engaging North Bay Shakespeare performed in recent memory. Director and cast were either born to it, achieved it or had it thrust upon them - whatever the case, this is one great "Night."
IF YOU GO
What: William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" by North Bay Shakespeare Company (formerly Shakespeare at Stinson)
Where: Hamilton Amphitheater Park, Main Gate Road, Novato
When: Through Sept. 30; 7 p.m. Fridays, 6 p.m. weekends, 10:30 a.m. matinees Sept. 14 and 28
Tickets: $16 to $30; matinees $12 for students and $16 general admission; Sept. 14 and 28 are Family and Friends Nights when groups of three or more are $14 per person.
Information: 868-1115, www.nbshakes.org
Rating: 5 stars
More: A benefit to support North Bay Shakespeare Company will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Sept. 9, followed by the play at 6 p.m. $40.