The Coastal Post - June 2000

Twelfth Night At Stinson

By Jeff Smith

Bay Area Theatre Critics' Circle

Shakespeare at Stinson commenced its seventh season last weekend, completing a cycle with THE TWELFTH NIGHT. And, as it is true for all successful ventures, the productions just keep getting better. Richard Rossi is the director of this world war two version of the play. Categorizing this production brings to mind an analogy based on Saturday Night Live skit about two women arguing over a squeeze bottle. One woman grabs the bottle, squeezes a big dab of its contents on to her kitchen floor, and confidently declares, "It is a floor polish!" Then the other woman wrestles the bottle away, squeezes its contents onto a dish of ice cream, and with equal conviction declares, "It is a dessert topping!" An arbitrator enters, he admires the shiny floor, tastes the ice cream topping, and says, "You are both right: it is a floor polish and a dessert topping!" Like the floor polish-dessert topping, this play is something special for all audiences. Rossi--making maximum utilization of a very creative and committed production staff--has given them a broad expanse of artistic freedom. The result is a romantic-comedy, dance-musical, world war two-nostalgia piece, and family variety show. Visually it ranges from SOUTH PACIFIC to the THREE STOOGES to the ED SULLIVAN SHOW.

The sound track, seamlessly assembled by Steven Dietz is a blend of the Andrew Sisters, Artie Shaw and Glen Miller, with some original compositions written and performed by Jonathan Wright in the character Feste. The music is of course thematically consistent with the army camp set designed by a very resourceful Ron Krempetz.

If you like hoofing, you will love this show. The entire cast should be especially grateful to choreographer, Cynthia Glinka: thanks to her, they have mastered 40's swing dancing.

If children, or adults, find it difficult translating Elizabethan English, they can view the show as pure comedy. Rossi has made a very successful effort to wring every ounce of laughter out of Shakespeare's script. Sir Toby Belch (Richard Cross), Sir Andrew Ague-Cheek (Nick Sholley) and Fabian (Brian Gillespie) are a hilarious comedy triumvirate pitted against the arrogant, pompous buffoon, Malvolio (Jeremy Koerner). Costume designer Rosemary Bock deserves much credit for making this show visually funny. She did her best work wardrobing these the clowns. The frippery of Sir Andrew and Malvolio is absolutely audacious.

Supporting actors Richard Cross and Johnathon Wright are the show's conspicuous strengths. Cross's character calls for him to be constantly tipping a wine flask, bumbling about in a drunken revelry and blustering and braying like a fool. Cross's performance is so convincing and his face flushed so crimson, one wonders what exactly is in his stage flask.

Wright's script is probably the most difficult--playing word games and confounding the other characters with his rapid fire, ironic wit and parrying rhetoric--and he renders his lines most accessible and audience friendly. Rossi has wisely allowed Wright to embellish his character with guitar work and some excellent vocals.

Although the show was not intended as an audience participation piece, as the play draws to a conclusion, the audience finds itself clapping and swaying to the music; ready to leap up and boogie with a cast which is clearly having a good time. Even the curtain call is a dance number.

The TWELFTH NIGHT at Stinson is a grand experience. The theater--situated at the foot of Mount Tamalpais and on the southern bank of the Easkoot Creek--is within earshot of the Pacific surf. The vista alone will nudge you toward the mystical experience. Artistic director Jeffrey Trotter has created a beautiful garden within the enclosed yet open air theater. If you love nature and appreciate its confluence with culture and the esthetics of life, Shakespeare at Stinson is calling you. As Shakespeare might have said, "Some (towns) are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." Given its successful theater company, Stinson has all three. For tickets to the TWELFTH NIGHT and an experience everyone can enjoy call the box office at 415 868-1115.

Coastal Post Home Page