Tuesday, April 16, 2019

QUICK TAKE REVIEW By Beverly Creasey The Whirligig of Time

TWELFTH Night was first performed in Boston in 1794. (I missed that one.) But Paula Plum’s 2019 production (at Lyric Stage through April 28th) should go down in history as one of the most fiercely intelligent versions ever to contemplate the comedy. There’s the rub, as the Bard might say. Is it really a comedy?

Plum posits the question, this being a play about strangers in a new, sometimes hostile country, not to mention in a climate where abuse is tolerated, even encouraged. Having seen Plum’s inspired take on kindness and cruelty, I couldn’t help but surrender my heart to the poor, “grievously abused” Malvolio. The combined Lyric/Actor’s Shakespeare Project production features master comedian Richard Snee in the role of the hilariously “cross-gartered” secretary to Lady Olivia (Samantha Richert).

Not to worry, there is an abundance of hilarity in the production, led by the brilliant Rachel Belleman as Feste, the “saucy” torch singer/nobody’s fool. She tears through David Wilson’s inspired arrangements of Shakespearean (as well as gorgeous 20th century) songs. In fact, Lady Olivia’s household is bursting to the brim with pranks and pratfalls. What there isn’t, in Plum’s capable hands, is a pat ending. That may be her triumph… That, and casting Haley Spivey as the perfect “divided” Viola. Divided, as she is a twin (to Dominic Carter) and, like Mozart’s divided violas, she takes our breath away with her sublime performance.

Don’t miss this Twelfth Night.