Lamb’s ‘Twelfth Night’ heavy on concept, music
Charlene Baldridge | Downtown News
“If music be the food of love,” playgoers will most certainly come home sated from the Lamb’s Players Theatre’s production of William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”
Playing the clown Feste (in this case the hotel pianist) Cris O’Bryon is at the big black grand piano most of the time, eliciting double-dip tips in his huge glass brandy snifter.
In celebration of 20 years at their Coronado location, Lamb’s Producing Artistic Director Robert Smyth, who also plays the clown Toby Belch, sets the sunny comedy upon a Hotel del Coronado set created by Mike Buckley. The year, 1949, was a good one for Jeanne Barnes Reith’s costumes (the spectator shoes are to die for). The idea is redolent of San Diego Opera’s 1999 and 2005 Hotel Del production of Mozart’s “Cosi fan tutte,” in which the young men were also clad in naval uniforms.
Viola (adorable, mustachioed Catie Grady) is a shipwrecked heiress who washes up on the shores of “Ilyria.” Thinking her twin brother Sebastian (Charles Evans Jr.) drowned, she disguises herself as the lad Cesario and goes into service of “Duke” Orsino (Jason Maddy), Captain of the naval base. Viola has loved Orsino from afar for many years. In the course of her service she is sent as emissary to the object of Orsino’s affection, Olivia (Christy Yael-Cox), who owns the hotel and admits no gentlemen callers because she is in deep mourning for her brother. Surrounding Feste in the hotel lobby are Olivia’s hangers on, her uncle, Sir Toby (Smyth) and a suitor, Andrew Aguecheek (Brian Mackey). Manifest with Mackey’s hilarious rubber legs and silly smile, Andrew is Toby’s drinking companion. The performance is definitely another gem in Mackey’s crown.
Complications include the pranking of Olivia’s supercilious hotel manager, Malvolio (Brian Rickel), by the hotel’s head housekeeper, Maria (Cynthia Gerber), And the most joyous of all, the appearance of Sebastian, who promptly falls in love with Olivia.
Cuts, obviously instituted to bring the show in at 2-1/2 hours, rob onlookers of Shakespeare’s homoerotic elements — most specifically Orsino’s consternation over his attraction to another man. Because of this, the revelation of Viola’s femaleness is robbed of full impact. But never mind, the text, uniformly Americana 1949, is well spoken, the plot clear, and Jon Lorenz’s score makes up for any lack of Shakespearean intent and usual practice.
Smyth’s casting of Orsino’s Ensigns, Curio and Valentine, with singers Jacob Caltrider and Jesse Abeel is brilliant. So is Jon Lorenz’s setting of Shakespeare’s songs, among them the aforementioned “If Music Be the Food of Love,” plus “O, Mistress Mine,” and “Come Away Death.” Others in the company are Jeffrey Jones and, Carrie Heath. Deborah Gilmore Smyth, who also assistant directed, is the choreographer.
Memorable moments include Aguecheek and Cesario’s Hotel Del-inspired tennis-racket duel with fight choreography by Maddy, and the initial appearance of Sebastian, looking so much like Cesario he takes one’s breath away. Another joy of the production is the giddy and girlish love of Olivia for Cesario. Yael-Cox, cofounder of Intrepid Shakespeare Company, is far from the usual dour Olivia.
—Charlene Baldridge moved to San Diego from the Chicago area in 1962. She’s been writing about the arts since 1979, and has had her features, critiques, surveys and interviews included in various publications ever since. Her book “San Diego, Jewel of the California Coast” (Northland Publishing) is currently available in bookstores. She can be reached at email@example.com.