YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


A Lively Mix of What You Will in 'Night'

November 08, 1996|PHILIP BRANDES

Caribbean revelers regale their masters with calypso ballads in a house of mourning bedecked like a palace from "The Arabian Nights." Drunken dilettantes in sunglasses and fezzes hatch byzantine plots of mischief. Aristocratic tourists in safari garb tote golf clubs and snap instant cameras.

Shakespeare's Illyria has rarely presented as total a portrait of upended rationality--or as fun a place to visit--as it does in A Noise Within's "Twelfth Night."

Well, no one can accuse director Dan Kern's rowdy, neo-pagan-meets-Casablanca-themed take on this classical comedy of being tame or stodgy. As a wise fool presiding over the spirited songs, Alex Desert epitomizes the inviting energy of this transformation.

Still, for all the staging's colorful appeal, its textual rationale is slim at best. The eclecticism can seem capricious and at times distracting from the more serious currents in this complex tale of separated twins and their romantic entanglements in a strange land.

Yanking the multihued spotlight back to the play itself are some classically nuanced performances. Joel Swetow is outstanding as the vilified servant Malvolio--hilarious from his prissy eyebrow-plucking to his misguided attempts to seduce his mistress, heartbreaking in his aggrieved humanity at the abuse and deception he suffers.

Likewise, Jenna Cole transcends the outlandish resetting to bring sparkling clarity to grieving Olivia as she falls in love with the disguised Viola (Jill Hill), who sues for her affections on behalf of the smitten Duke Orsino (Dominic Hoffman). Unfortunately, Hill barely conveys Viola's own passion for Orsino, blunting a pivotal ironic complication.

* "Twelfth Night," A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale. Saturday, Thursday, 8 p.m.; Sunday, 7 p.m.; also Nov. 15, 22, 23, 29, 8 p.m.; Nov. 23, 24 and 30, 2 p.m.; Nov. 24 and Dec. 1, 7 p.m. $20-$24. (818) 546-1924. Running time: 2 hours, 50 minutes.

Los Angeles Times Articles