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December 11, 2008

Here's the Answer! A Review

Roy Meachum

If there's anything wrong about the Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of "Twelfth Night," I simply didn't catch it. This is the most consistently comedic I've seen of any of the Bard's comedies.


Director Rebecca Bayla Teichman deserves great credit, but not all. The spotlight must be shared with a trio: Stuart Howard, Amy Schecter and Paul Hardt. They're listed in the program for casting; that means, in consultation with artistic director and STC founder Michael Kahn and Director Teichman, they pick actors right for the parts. They've done a number on Sidney Harman Hall's latest number.


Samantha Soule may be too softly feminine to really get away with passing herself off as Viola imitating a boy; but she acts the role as if she had Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn tucked away in Samantha's soul. (Grimace) Veanne Cox is gloriously campy as the countess waiting for her true love, which, of course, she finds in a totally unacceptable form. The playwright has no better moments than when his farces rotate around mistaken identity.


Christopher Innvar lines his pins all in a row as Duke Orsino, who principally plays straight man for the madness around him. And old Washington theatrical hand Ted van Griethuysen might just be the maddest of the crew – yellow stockings, crossed garters and all. Rick Foucheux belches impressively as the drunken uncle to Miss Cox's countess.


Attention must be paid to Tom Story, who glides, flops and twists like ropes in a swing to bring Sir Andrew Aguecheek come alive; he does – splendidly. All the other players exceed Ms. Teichman's mark if not her expectations. All good directors are rarely content; they always want more and more.


Floyd King does not take the final curtain call; it belongs to the stars. But no cast member deserves accolades more. Crowned with a wrinkled clown hat, he manages consummate magic as Feste, the fool. He's the best singer of Shakespeare's lyrics I've heard and yet, withal, when he delivers serious advice or commentary he must be taken very seriously. As Shakespeare intended, any beat not accounted for becomes a cue for Feste's intrusion again. The program notes list plays I've reviewed that Mr. King at least held a spear, or something. I will look for him in the future with concern about how the Shakespeare Theatre Company is using him. He's entitled to at least Bravo! And maybe a few more.


If you've avoided classical plays out of fear they might be too stuffy or dark, here's the antidote. For anyone who has shunned Shakespeare in the past, the Harman Hall's boards have the answer. "Twelfth Night" holds over the coming holidays; if you wait, then you are a bloody fool and I don't mean like Mr. King's Feste.


I've seen theatres all over the Western world: Paris' Marigny when Jean Louis Barrault set the standard for all other Gallic Hamlets. I saw the Hamburger Schauspiel's Faust and will never hear Gretchen's Gebet without recalling the echte German dancers creating a night in Hell. I put this Shakespeare Theatre Company's "Twelfth Night" in the same category.




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