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Pendragon Theatre, Saranac Lake, NY
Wednesday, July 24 through August 2002 in repertory
The production of TWELFTH NIGHT running in rep at Pendragon Theatre in Saranac Lake is definitely worth a look. This is my third TWELFTH NIGHT this year and the Pendragon version can certainly hold its own.
One of the primary reasons is Molly Pietz's performance as Viola/Cesario. The role is too often played very romantically and the comedy left to Sir Toby and Sir Andrew. Miss Pietz is a good comedienne herself, and lo and behold--the whole play's funny!
Director Karen Lordi has set the play in an indeterminate time and place. The imaginative set and costumes designed by Kent Streed tell us we're somewhere in the neighborhood of Persia, Morocco, or possibly Constantinople. In any case, it's very colorful with a wonderful mix of colors, patterns and mirrors. I especially enjoyed the trickle of the pearl-draped fountain.
Director Lordi and Mr. Streed have also solved the Viola/Cesario disguise problem very well by making the change onstage. Doing it this way helps us to accept the subsequent twin confusion. The opening scene is stunning with its draped umbrellas and veils. My only costume quibbles are to request that someone fix Malvolio's cross-gartering and tone down the Priest's age make-up. It's much too extreme for a small theatre.
Speaking of Matt Sorensen who plays the Priest, he does a nice job with the Captain. Megan Papier has come a long way from her roller blades and is very good as Olivia. Abigail Hazen doesn't need to work so hard as Maria, especially in her Act II scene about Malvolio. It starts so big there's nowhere to go.
Chris McGovern makes a very good Malvolio. His well-rounded characterization points up the cruelty of Maria's and Sir Toby's humor. Ralph Petrarca is hilarious as Sir Andrew. I loved his pantomime during the duel challenge and his crashing exits. He also makes a very good plant.
The slightly uneven cast makes one aware of the fact that most young actors need to learn to listen. Mr. Petrarca, Miss Pietz and Mr. McGovern are accomplished actors and the performances of some of the other cast members improve markedly during scenes with any one of the three.
I enjoyed most of Ellen Mandel's original music, especially the Entr' Acte. However I found the interpretation of the final song inappropriate. It became a rock song about umbrella choreography and the cast might as well have been singing nonsense syllables. Many in the audience laughed throughout - that's what makes horse races.
I have another difference of opinion with Miss Lordi in her interpretation of Feste. He says, "I'm not a fool but a corrupter of words." There's a difference between one of Shakespeare's wise fools and a clown. Stephen J. John's performance is consistent with the director's vision, and he's obviously very talented and versatile. However his song with Sir Toby to Malvolio could use some trimming.
Miss Lordi's staging of Malvvolio's imprisonment is extremely clever, and the letter scene is hilarious, filled with birdcalls, living statues and dancing plants. There's even a subtle tribute to The Village People.
I guess my final verdict it that it's uneven but funny and very entertaining. On a scale of one to five the Pendragon production of TWELFTH NIGHT gets four pine cones. For North Country Public Radio I'm Connie Meng.