“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em,” says the dour stewart Malvolio (Chris Vettel) in Sacramento Theatre Company’s marvelous new production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”
Fortunately, the actors had achieved greatness and those of us in the audience had the good fortune to have that greatness thrust upon us.
While everyone in the cast was wonderful, this particular production belonged to the women. Melinda Parrett was regal, cool and detached as the noble woman Olivia in her time of mourning for her deceased brother, until she sees Cesario, page to Count Orsino (actually the shipwrecked Viola, disguised as a man), who awakens her adolescent hormones and turns her into a horny teenager.
As for Alicia Hunt, fresh off her triumphant performance in B Street’s “Grounded,” she gave a magnetic performance as Viola, bold and brash in her male disguise, yet soft and feminine when a woman. When the two actors appear on stage together, there is something magical that happens.
Not quite on a par with those two, but still strong in her own right, is Taylor Vaughan as Maria, Olivia’s woman servant, with a wicked sense of humor as she creates a cruel trick to play on the hapless Malvolio. This is Vaughn’s first professional show and first appearance with STC.
Orsino (Ryan Snyder) is mooning around for the lovely Olivia, and can’t quite understand his attraction for his “man” servant Cesario. Snyder is soap-opera handsome and commands attention just by striding manfully on stage. His red coat (by costume designer Jessica Minnihan) sets him apart from the others before he ever speaks.
Directors Kirk Blackinton and Brian Harrower have chosen to set this play on an 18th-century Caribbean island, which lends itself beautifully to sand-colored mansions adorned with colorful flowers (designer Eric Broadwater), and it also gives the character of Feste, traditionally a clown, a different focus. Noah Lee Hayes is barefoot and carries bongos around with him and is always breaking into calypso songs when the spirit (or the dialog) moves him.
Olivia’s uncle, Sir Toby Belch, is perhaps one of Shakespeare’s best-known buffoons, and is there to lend a special comic touch. Don Hayden plays him to the hilt.
Vettel’s Malvolio’s haughty, judgmental opinion of things like drinking, singing and fun (which Sir Toby and his friends love to do) earns him the scorn of the revelers and the cruel trick Maria devises. Vettel’s reeling around in the ridiculous costume he dons to win favor with Olivia is very funny.
Aaron Kitchin is Sebastian, Viola’s brother, whom she assumed had been lost at sea. While they are obviously not “identical” twins (fraternal twins are never identical, despite what the play seems to imply), the two wouldn’t even pass as identical, as Kitchin has at least a foot of height on Hunt. But let it pass. He succumbs happily and readily to Olivia’s mistaking him for his sister.
This is a romantic comedy where, after many mixups, everything gets sorted out and all’s well that ends well (or is that a different show?)
In any event, Sacramento Theatre Company has done a wonderful job on a comedy that should appeal to everyone.