She removes her black sunglasses, and in no rush, takes off the oversized black sunhat and black scarf from around her head. Countess Olivia, a woman looking fashionable as she mourns the loss of her brother, presses her golden locks in place. Katie MacNichol as Olivia woos the audience just as much as she woos Viola (Dana Green), who sits back and watches the show. Green makes her Old Globe debut in this season’s production of Twelfth Night, and as Roxane in Cyrano De Bergerac. She immediately lures in the audience when she arrives in Illyria on a boat with a sea captain (Kern McFadden), fresh from a shipwreck and crying over her assumed dead twin brother, Sebatian, played by Kevin Hoffmann. Viola changes her name to Cesario, concealed as the “not yet a boy, not yet a man” page who serves Duke Orsino (Gerritt VanderMeer), attempted wooer of Olivia. The plot thickens and romantic, as well as gender signals cross, because Orsino loves Olivia, Olivia loves Cesario, and Cesario, who is really Viola, loves Orsino. VanderMeers’ white suit, perfect dark hair and crystal blue eyes compliment his dashing mannerisms as he speaks to Cesario about love. Green, in the meantime, conceals her tears.
While Olivia, Orsino and Viola each fall in star-crossed love, we are amused by the singing, dancing and bawdy behavior of Feste the clown (James Newcomb), Sir Toby Belch (Eric Hoffmann), and Sir Andrew (Bruce Turk). Newcomb’s singing and accordion playing proves an impressive accompaniment for Hoffmann and Turk’s drunken bromance and rabble rousing. Their gallivanting entices the viewer to want to join them on stage to get in on the act.
Olivia’s servants, Maria (Aubrey Saverino) and Fabian (Steven Marzolf), along with Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Feste, loathe the pompous Malvolio (Patrick Page), steward to Olivia, and devise a plan that involves a fraudulent love letter to Malvolio, disguised in Olivia’s hand. Page, in a butler’s style suit, stands up tall with his perfect tiny mustache and snooty accent. As he reads the letter planted by Maria and the others, Page practices his smile as if he were a horse reaching for an apple. Eventually, Page finds himself tied to a buoy, complete with foghorn and mist. He doesn’t even look like the steward he once was as he cries out, rocking back and forth on the buoy in his yellow, cross-gartered stockings. As this man made fool evokes both sympathy and laughter, it’s clear he’s due some sort of future revenge, even if offstage, after the show.
Greg Derelian as the sailor, Antonio, helps to unravel the confusion of the twins separated at sea. Even though we all know the ending, Hoffmann and Green give a heartwarming performance as they realize they are brother and sister, and props must be given to Samantha Barrie, CSA, who convincingly cast the two.
Part of the fun of this production, set in the 1950s Italian Riviera, is Linda Cho’s costume design. As soon as Turk makes his appearance frolicking through the audience and onto the stage, the clothes transform him into silly Sir Andrew with baby blue striped shorts that accentuate his long, pale legs, and a matching button-down shirt that is really unbuttoned down to his bellybutton. The sight lends itself to laughter. The most elegantly dressed is, of course, Katie MacNichol in tailored dresses that emphasize her slender frame and tiny waist. For Olivia’s wedding, MacNichol adorns herself in a couture-style white strapless dress with a sheath overlay, adding texture to the bodice and fullness to its peek-a-boo open skirt. A fringed sash perfects the ensemble with a splash of elegance.
Paul Mullins’ direction gracefully meshes characters, costumes, music and set design inspired by an illusionary seacoast. Mullins festively follows tradition at The Old Globe by meshing the actors with the audience, using the full scope of the theatre as the actors tear through the crowd and at times engage those seated in the front row. Christopher R. Walker’s sound design and 50’s-inspired music is also great fun. Newcomb’s songs along with some impressive harmonizing on the part of Orsino’s court draw the audience further into the festive nature of this play.
The Lowell Davies Festival Theatre is one of three Old Globe stages. The woodwork of the permanent stage is brilliant, somehow escaping the wear and tear of an open-air theatre. The stage has so many tricks in its wings that it looks like it could break down into a "Transformer." Up and center is a hidden sliding door that provides passage for boats. With just a hint of light, the Skyfare can be seen working at the San Diego Zoo. The Skyfare is an air rail that gives zoo visitors a view of Balboa Park and the Old Globe Theatres. The stage has three entrances that are exchanged and/or used as per the production at hand. Ralph Funicello’s scenic design includes umbrellas and a lounge chair for Olivia, a docking area with crates and fishing nets for Orsino, and wood pillars as props for Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Feste.
Since the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre is outdoors, sweaters and blankets are wise accoutrements for those foggy nights. Also, the fifteen-minute intermission feels like five; so, preorder your snacks before the show from the pub, which offers the best brownie in San Diego, made by Le Chef.
“If music be the food of love, play on…” and eat brownies.