So let’s say you want to go out and have a grand evening of theatre. Well I have a great suggestion for you, which includes a two for one offering. Currently, the Ohio Shakespeare Festival is presenting their opening show of their 13th Summer Season with a theatrical feast of Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, hilariously directed by Terry Burgler**. Performed at the Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens in Akron, Oh, with the multi-leveled set cloistered in a beautiful garden setting. But this feast begins with dessert, in the form of the Greenshow.
Directed by Tess Burgler, she gathers up her multitudinous band of merry makers and creates an entertaining serving of craziness and HUZZAH-ing. With Music Director Jason Leupold, Choreographer Katie Zarecki, and Original Music by Scott Campbell, Burglar literally creates a Bardnado of fun that has the audience eating up every hilarious and charming moment. There is a little bit of everything thrown in for good measure, such as sing a longs, patter songs, drinking songs, marriage advice to young maidens, and a fascinating display of fight choreography provided by Fight Director Ryan Zarecki, and his fool, I mean foil, Joe Pine. Foreshadowing. Thank you. One of my favorites is a cover of one of my favorite songs, “Brandy” by Looking Glass, and the results are a chuckle fest. The festivities end with a very funny song about Mermaid love, and then brilliantly segues into the main course.
Terry Burgler serves up the main course, Twelfth Night, with a collection of talented actors that are appealing, engaging and exude supreme confidence. We follow these merry makers as the story unfolds. A great shipwreck washes Lady Viola (Tess Burgler), and what remains of her crew, ashore the beach of Illyria. She has been separated from her brother, Sebastian (Kevin Glass), who is presumed dead. To safeguard her virtue, Viola disguises herself as the boy Cesario, and serves as page to Duke Orsino (Anand Nagraj*). She quickly falls in love with the Duke. Orsino, however, is heartsick for the Lady Olivia (Lara Knox*), and he sends Cesario to woo his lady love. The love triangle is made complete when Olivia falls in love with the disguised Viola. Soon, a whirlwind of mistaken identities, love-struck royals, practical jokers, and outlandish servants bombard the stage with their revelry.
There are so many strong and wonderful performances here, it is a roll call of bliss. Of course, it also may be I bought the last soft pretzel, but I digress. Nagraj is a regal joy to watch, taking charge of his space with eloquent diction and stage presence. Burgler is very strong as she maneuvers through this tale with her disguised personae, and is an anchor that holds this production together. Kevin Glass as Sebastian, brother to Viola, cuts a fine figure and performance, and is enjoyable to watch. Antonio (David McNees), sea captain and friend to Sebastian, has a great confident look, and delivers a solid performance.
Knox is a knock out. As she enters, you can just feel her presence and confidence, and emotional power. Beautiful diction, dramatic alluring looks, and she inhabits a kick ass character throughout. Even when love gets the best of her, she becomes even more of a delight. Derrick Winger as Sir Toby Belch, is a total blast to watch and enjoy. His drunken antics are welcome throughout, and his strong energy makes every appearance on stage a welcome sight. Jason Leupold is hot yellow mess, and I love every minute of it. His Sir Andrew Aguecheek is a fabulous train wreck of issues that delights endlessly.
Holly Humes as Maria, is an incredible asset to this production. Great characterization, and watching her handle situation after situation, is pure enjoyment. I don’t want her to be mad at me. Geoff Knox as Malvolio is a master class of brilliance and exceptional humor. Following his arc through the play is worth the trip. And, then there is Joe Pine. What can’t this man do? I am convinced that he has never gotten a speeding ticket, because when he is pulled over, he just says to the officer “I am sorry sir, but look how adorable I am”, to which the officer says “Ok, I’ll give you a warning this time”. Pine is firing on all cylinders in this production, and I am surprised they don’t need a bigger extension to contain his fantastic energy. Excellent work.
Rounding out small of the smaller roles, we still experience deft acting. Mark Stoffer as Fabian is great, and Henry C. Bishop takes about 4 lines of dialogue and creates a superb comedic moment. The ensemble is strong and never wastes a moment on stage.
Congrats to Director and Set Designer Terry Burgler, Music Director Mark Stoffer, Fight Director Zarecki, Original Music by Steve Liebman, Lighting Design by Buddy Taylor, and Costume Design by Nancy Cates**.
Thank you for a great evening.
**Member SDC, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers
*Member, Actors’ Equity Association
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$15-$30 Reserved Seating/General Admission
Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens
714 N. Portage Path
Akron, OH 44303