By Lex, on September 16, 2009
You have a few professors from your high school days whose names you still remember. I have mine. Dick Dauphinee taught me to love the English language, and John Youngblood taught me to love Shakespeare. Through their conjoined efforts over what could have been a dreary two years from sophomore to junior year, I was made into a fan of Shakespeare. Nothing in the intervening years has shaken me from that position.
Eldest Daughter soon decamps, and had asked that we spend a night together in joyful contemplation of that fact. A night of theater at the Old Globe was recommended, and the Bard’s Twelfth Night suited our schedule. In the event, other priorities emerged for our soon to be absent daughter but the Hobbit saw fit to accompany me nevertheless. Excellent seats having been purchased, and it would have been a sin to waste them.
It’s a wonderful venue, stout brown oak beneath the stars, amenable to nearly every performance. Blankets free of charge to keep off the falling damps. The company of those who love the spectacle. Even young people, the kind that give you faith that the important things may yet endure. But the play’s the thing.
The plot itself might almost seem trivial: Viola gets cast ashore by the intervention of fate. Her ship battered to bits, and separated from her beloved brother, she finds herself in a foreign land. To protect her virtue she passes herself off as a man, attending to the Count Orsino. Bidden to present the tokens of her master’s love for one Countess Olivia – herself cast in darkness by the death of a beloved brother – she finds herself entranced by the count and bewitching the countess. Wise fools and foolish wise men. Ordinary stuff.
A wretched series of cliche twists perhaps in the 21st century. But it’s been playing for nearly 400 years, and it might be that other playwrights have taken a leaf out of Shakespeare’s notebook. This renders the material familiar, but never stale.
Loving the language the Bard created I knew that I would love the thing, however imperfectly consummated. The Hobbit is a sterner judge. We both found ourselves exceptionally well pleased.
Linda Cho set the costuming in 1950s style, and the whole thing worked inordinately well. The men are swells, the ladies unselfconsciously voluptuous. And the sheer physicality of the actors’ efforts bore the bell away , they seem genuinely pleased to play their parts. Dana Green was note perfect as Viola/Cesarino. Gerritt Vandermeer begins a perfectly insipid Count Orsino before growing into his depth as Viola’s swain. Katie MacNichol becomes a 16th century cougar brought forward in the person of Olivia, entranced by Green’s Cesarino until her brother – earnest Kevin Hoffmann playing the role of Sebastian – returns from the sea unlooked for. Patrick Page – playing Malvolio – must have kept a stock of lemons just off stage to bite on. Eric Hoffman and Bruce Turk enthusiastically play out dissipated nobles in the characters of Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek. James Newcomb brings us all into the joke as the joker Feste. Aubrey Saverino threatened to steal the show in her exuberant depiction of Maria, handmaid to Olivia. It was all magical.
It lasted two hours and forty-five minutes, and was over in an instant. During the intermission, the Hobbit and I talked about what Shakespeare himself would have thought to find his play played thus.
I think he would have been greatly amused, concessions made to our mangling accents. I know I was.