A couple of weeks back, my wife Lisa and I attended one of the Independent Shakespeare Company’s performances of The Taming of the Shrew, and if you haven’t read my review, suffice to say, we both had a great time, and I thought that the performance of Kate by Melissa Chalsma was excellent, with one of the best deliveries of that final speech I’ve ever seen. We loved it so much that we jumped at the chance to catch their Twelfth Night, free again in Griffith Park, and presented under a glorious late summer evening sky.
Going in, I knew that this play was directed by that Taming‘s Kate, Melissa Chalsma, and so my expectations were pretty high. And while I wasn’t disappointed, this is most definitely a different animal. Where IndyShakes’ Taming was driven by the leads, here it was the secondary characters who stole the show (and then ran “like they stole it”). And given the director’s note in the program, relating the play’s title with the “topsy-turvy” nature of the master waiting on servants on January 6 (the twelfth night after Christmas), this supporting cast dominance seems more than fitting.
The men of the “house of mourning” (as Chalsma puts it)–Belch, Feste, and the visiting Sir Andrew–are all top-notch and fully realized. Danny Campbell as Sir Toby brings all the entitlement that his stature as Olivia’s kinsman would bring. They forgo giving Andre Martin’s Aguecheek flaxen hair (as described in the text), going instead for dressing him in yellow… which makes the revelation that Olivia hates the color a great sight gag. And just as Chalsma was great in Taming, her husband and partner in founding IndyShakes, David Melville, makes for an awesome Feste, riding that fine line between the verbal and the physical in the clown.
Luis Galindo’s Malvolio is also of note here, bringing all the swagger his Petruchio had in Taming, and focusing it with the overbearing that is necessary for Malvolio. When he storms off stage, shouting that he’ll be revenged on the pack of his tormentors, you have no doubt that not only does he still have the power to do it, but that he will as well.
The leads, in my view, were not as strong, but in hindsight, I’m wondering if that is less a matter of talent or direction, and more that the supporting cast was so exemplary.
We certainly enjoyed this production of Twelfth Night. And if the play hadn’t ended its run last weekend, I would recommend it wholeheartedly… so think of this review as whetting the appetite, as it’s just ten more months before they return for the 2015 summer season with Much Ado About Nothing and Romeo and Juliet… (not to mention their year-round indoor theater productions in their studio theater in Atwater Village).