Twelfth Night On Seventh Night

Seventh Night is probably as good as any to review Twelfth Night, currently at the Shakespeare Theatre. In sum: it's good fun.

"Malvolio" was pretty much made for Ted van Griethuysen or vice versa, although this production violates my "rule" about performance of this particular play.

Malvolio is such a pompous, self-righteous fellow that the audience should identify with Maria (the wonderful, pitch-perfect Nancy Robinette) and Sir Toby's effort to play a prank on him. At the same time --this is my rule-- if the audience doesn't audibly gasp with sympathy when Malvolio (having found the forged love note) exclaims, "My lady... loves... me!" then Malvolio has been over-played (as is the tendency as soon as any actor or director learns about Elizabethan 12th Night practices which this play is said to embody). The audience should feel the prank is an over-reach, I think. I didn't sense that moment of connection from this production.

Mr. van G. doesn't overplay the role, but neither does he play Malvolio as if he really did love his mistress -- a dimension that adds to the cruelty of the joke and our sense at the end that Malvolio truly has been abused. This Malvolio is just a social-climber, which is a reasonable interpretation, but I at least had trouble feeling sorry for him even at the end when he slinks off for revenge and the pranksters are caught and punished. Now I have to go re-read and re-think that scene.

Indeed, in spite of director Rebecca Bayla Taichman's having campy good fun with the lighting and staging (choosing, for example, to punctuate all the love scenes with mood lighting and gobs of rose petals falling from the sky --like this-- so that love is literally in the air), and even though this is the first play this season in which both Mr. W. & I remarked there were no weak links among the actors, and even though they all seemed to be enjoying themselves thoroughly, this production seemed oddly subdued to me. For reasons I can't put my finger on. Maybe I was just tired.

Floyd King can sing! Feste's little songs punctuate the production and King's voice is simple, clear and pleasant, adding enjoyment to an already enjoyable performance.

Update: Here's WaPo's review, with which I substantially agree.