At PAL (Performing Arts Lodge), March 14-19, 2017
Posted March 13, 2017
Spring is in the air and a young man’s (or woman’s) fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love. Go no further than the Bard to hear what love does to us. In Twelfth Night, the Duke counsels young Cesario thus: “Come hither, boy: if ever thou shalt love/In the sweet pangs of it remember me;/For such as I am, all true lovers are,/Unstaid and skittish in all motions else,/Save in the constant image of the creature/That is beloved.”
Lovesick Orsino, Duke of Illyria, is rendered “unstaid and skittish” by the beautiful but chilly Countess Olivia. Perhaps, the Duke thinks, she could be moved – in his stead – by young, handsome Cesario. The problem is that Olivia falls for Cesario who is actually Viola, recently shipwrecked and separated from her identical brother Sebastian, whom she assumes has been drowned. For safety’s sake and to gain entry to the Duke’s court, Viola has donned men’s clothing and now finds herself the confidante of the Duke.
While we all love a good Shakespeare production with a huge set, lavish costumes and lots of fanfare, there is so much pleasure to be had in an intimate setting like the PAL studio and actors with scripts in hand – especially when those actors know how to ‘speak Shakespeare’: the phrasing, the rhythm, the breathing. This Western Gold production is accessible right down to the facial expressions, the small gestures, the subtle looks, the tiny exclamations, “Oh”. This surely is the way to introduce students to Shakespeare: up close. Half remembering, half reading, the actors probably speak more slowly and if they stumble, the audience is rooting for them. It’s so comfortable – the “we’re all in this together” approach. Collaborators in making theatre.
Director Anna Hagan brought this group together on March 7 and the show opened on March 10. It’s billed as an “all-senior” cast but surely “senior” has been redefined. Either that, or seniors are younger than they ever were. Regardless, they are all experienced veterans who pulled this together in four days.
Terence Kelly plays the love-struck Duke to Annabel Kershaw’s regal Olivia. Well, Kershaw is regal until Olivia is struck by Cupid’s arrow and then she’s breathlessly coltish in her overtures to Cesario/Viola. Eileen Barrett, looking very boyish in trousers, waistcoat and fedora, conveys all the awkwardness of Cesario/Viola’s situation: avoiding the advances of Olivia and secretly longing for the Duke to switch his romantic inclination from Olivia to her.
The subplot – never quite as funny as when Shakespeare wrote it, I think – is the plot against puritanical, sourpuss Malvolio (Steve James). Forging a love letter supposedly from Olivia to Malvolio, hard drinking Sir Toby Belch (Dave Campbell), half-cracked ninny Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Bernard Cuffling), sly Fabian (David C. Jones) and mirthful Maria (merry Marlee Walchuk) make a complete fool of Malvolio when he greets Olivia wearing yellow, cross-gartered stockings. When the forgery is discovered, Olivia chides them but they’re scarcely chastened. A shadow briefly falls near the end of the play as Malvolio departs saying, “I’ll be revenged on the whole pack of you.”
Vince Metcalfe is a spritely Feste, hopping from bench to bench like a tropical bird singing a few merry tunes. Hrothgar Mathews, dressed similarly to Barrett, is Viola’s brother Sebastian and Paul Batten is decent, upstanding Antonio, who comes to the aid of Sebastian.
Designer Glenn MacDonald sawed, hammered and painted a lovely Italianate set and pulled out of storage a large, rolled piece of vinyl flooring with a paving stone pattern. It looks Mediterranean, warm and a perfect place for romance.
There is something very special about a staged reading. Without all the glamour and glitter of a full production, the focus is on the story, the skill of the director and actors, and Shakespeare’s wonderful words. This Twelfth Night needs no glitz to make it a pleasurable two hours before heading out, with a smile and a “hey, ho, the wind and the rain. . . For the rain it raineth every day.” No balmy Italian weather for us.