April 9, 2004



Fools and all, Bard's comedy simmers


by Rob Kendt

Special to The Times


Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" already has a surfeit of clowns and fools--drunken Sir Toby, stuffy Malvolio, discursive Feste, clueless Aguecheek, even love-struck noblewoman Olivia.


Why not add a preening Orsino to the fray? As the besotted count in Actors Co-op's sleek new production, John Allsopp spends the first act a little verklempt, turning an often thankless role into a comic sketch of self-involved emotional excess.


The choice adds buoyancy to director Hisa Takakuwa's otherwise wistful rendition, which she sets in the late 1800s in front of Gary Lee Reed's dappled, Cezanne-like storybook set; another set piece is a detail of Van Gogh's "Room at Arles," and Debussy's fragrant music is the food of love here (and the salient influence for David O's searching new compositions).


The second act darkens with the humiliation of Malvolio (an excellent Bruce Ladd), prodded by Michelle Allsopp's pointed, Peter Pan-like Feste. By then Ted Rooney's elastic Sir Toby has asserted his rightful place as the show's main engine of mayhem, abetted by saucy Maria (Micah Kobayashi) and attended by Aguecheek (Travis Vaden), whose mullet gets him his biggest laughs).


A foolish Orsino ultimately doesn't pay off, as he hardly seems a worthy object for Maria Lay's ardent, intelligent Viola. And her pursuer, Olivia, is given an insipid reading by Andrea Kim Walker.


Getting the right balance with a text as sexy as it is silly, as profound as it is playful, isn't easy. But even with the central romantic heating on the fritz, in Takakuwa's assured hands this oft-performed chestnut still simmers and crackles.




'Twelfth Night'


Where: Actors Co-op at the Crossley Theatre, 1760 N. Gower St., Hollywood


When: Thursdays to Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2:30 p.m. No performances this weekend.


Ends: May 30


Price: $17-$22


Contact: (323) 462-8460


Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes