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Review: SSC’s ‘Twelfth Night’ is merry old time in Congress Park

Review: SSC’s ‘Twelfth Night’ is merry old time in Congress Park

Director William Finlay has gone bonkers, and that’s one of the reasons why this outdoor production

Pink flamingos? A golf cart? Spanish accents? Director William Finlay has gone bonkers, and that’s one of the reasons why this outdoor production of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” is as merry as it’s meant be.

The setting of the play in modern-day Miami (though the characters refer to Ilyria, the original locale) does not add or detract from the script, but it provides some delightful visuals that increase the humor.

Along for the zany ride are Orsino, Duke of Ilyria (Tim Dugan), who sets the tone with his self-dramatizing first lines. A man in love? So he says, though he swiftly changes partners at the end. In love with love, perhaps. So, too, other characters: Olivia (Sara Luz Cordoba), a countess who acts rather like a teenager; Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Anthony Peeples), a textbook swain with eyes for Olivia; Sebastian (Giancarlo Osaben), a stranger in town who beds and weds Olivia just because she tells him to; and Malvolio (David Girard), Olivia’s proud steward who is easily convinced that she fancies him.

‘Twelfth Night’

WHERE: Saratoga Shakespeare Company, Congress Park, Saratoga Springs

WHEN: Through July 29

HOW MUCH: Free

MORE INFO: www.saratogashakespeare.com

The only lover who demonstrates some restraint is Viola (Valerie Terranova); while the audience knows she has a thing for the duke, she —disguised as a man — doesn’t close the deal until the final scene.

Additional sources of tension and amusement come from Olivia’s maid, Maria (Patricia Culbert), Olivia’s musical clown, Feste (Jorge Hernandez) and Olivia’s kinsman, Sir Toby Belch (John Romeo), a drunkard aptly named.

The blue/white/pink two-level set by Louis Allen, the summery beach gear by Brittney Belz, and the pop Latin music aptly keep us grounded in 2012, Elizabethan language notwithstanding. Despite a couple of miking glitches, the sound carries across the lawn to wherever you’re sitting and despite whatever you might be munching on. (Yes, bring a picnic and a chair.)

I had a few reservations about the blocking at times; some actors seemed to drift. The last scene is tough with everyone on stage, but all in a line?

About the characterizations, however, I have no quibbles. Dugan’s expansiveness works. Culbert’s Maria is a believable take-charge mischief maker. Hernandez has a splendid voice, both for acting and singing. Osaben doesn’t have a big part, but you pay attention when he’s on. Cordoba (with a little Sofia Vergara about her) is completely in every moment — upset, amorous, confused, imperious. And Terranova’s Viola, whose disguise has caused most of the problems of the main plot, is a winning young woman, quick on her feet and capable of great feeling.

As the three silly characters involved in the subplot, Romeo, Girard and Peeples shine. Despite a few shaky lines on Thursday, Romeo makes Sir Toby lovably naughty. Girard’s stuffed shirt Malvolio, slipping up and down the stairs with a humorous gait, converts amusingly to the “yellow-stockinged” paramour. And Girard even makes us feel for the man at the end when he becomes the laughingstock. Finally, Peeples. He has the physical energy, comic timing and facial expressions to make Sir Andrew winningly pathetic.

There’s no intermission, sunshine being the only light. But you’re never restless, thanks to Finlay’s swift pacing.

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