Regional Reviews: Washington, D.C.
Richmond borrows the look of this production from silent film, with its elaborate postures and comic walks. The audience watches as twins Viola (Emily Trask) and Sebastian (William Vaughan) playfully dress each other in identical men's suits, then pose for a photo as they board an unseen ship. Next comes the dreamlike horror of a shipwreck, when the two can no longer hold onto each other, and then the play itself begins on Tony Cisek's luxurious white and gold set that even features a filigree grand piano. (This Viola does not appear in women's clothing until the very end of the play.)
In keeping with the emphasis on comedy, the standout performance in this production is Richard Sheridan Willis as Malvolio, the officious steward to the reclusive countess Olivia (Rachel Pickup). His hair elaborately curled, his face impassive, he seems to break free of his own body when he is tricked into believing that Olivia loves him. (Mariah Hale's costuming of the "yellow stockings and cross garters" scene is well worth the buildup.) He receives strong support from Craig Wallace as an ebullient Sir Toby Belch, Louis Butelli as a ukulele-playing Feste, Tonya Beckman as a bawdy Maria, and James Konicek as a delightfully vague Sir Andrew Aguecheek.
Trask brings an intriguing stillness to Viola (except for the occasional slapstick moments), while Orsino (Michael Brusasco) tends to let his emotions run away with him. Pickup is a charming Olivia, well matched with both Trask and Vaughan.
Twelfth Night is easily William Shakespeare's most musical playit's been adapted numerous times for the musical stageand Richmond builds the atmosphere of its disguised and misguided lovers through music of the period, both classical (Debussy's "Clair de Lune") and popular ("By the Light of the Silvery Moon," "A Bicycle Built for Two"). Several of the actors also play musical instruments and, indeed, they perform an abbreviated music hall show during intermission.