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‘Twelfth Night’ opens Ohio Shakespeare Festival’s summer season

7/10/2014 - West Side Leader
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By David Ritchey

Starring in Ohio Shakespeare Festival’s production of “Twelfth Night” are, from left, Holly Humes, Derrick Winger, Jason Leupold and Joe Pine.
Photo courtesy of Ohio Shakespeare Festival
WEST AKRON — Opening night of the Ohio Shakespeare Festival’s production of “Twelfth Night” brought plenty of surprises to Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens. The show runs through July 20.

Opening night was July 4, and the temperature dropped to about 49 degrees F. Early in the second act, the audience heard the fireworks across the city, but the cast members kept their focus and didn’t drop a line or character. 

Shakespeare wrote “Twelfth Night” in 1600-1601, for the twelfth night after Christmas, the eve of the Feast of Epiphany, a day of revelry. This production of “Twelfth Night” is two and a half hours (including intermission) of wild, colorful revelry. It seems appropriate that a production of “Twelfth Night” complemented the city’s celebration of Independence Day.

Shakespeare wrote “Twelfth Night” for a specific group of actors and as he wrote it, he knew who would play each part. Director Terry Burgler caught Shakespeare’s spirit and selected the perfect actor for each role.

Shakespeare provided more than enough gender bending in this script to keep the actors and audience amused. Shakespeare wrote for an all-male cast. So, Viola, a woman, was played by a man. However, Viola disguises herself as a man. A woman, Olivia, played by a man, falls in love with Viola. The plot gets even more complicated when Viola’s brother, Sebastian (Kevin Glass), arrives in town and, thanks to a hard working costume designer, they (Viola and Sebastian) are dressed alike.

Viola (Tess Burgler) loves Orsino (Anand Nagraj), and she (dressed as a man) is loved by Olivia (Lara Knox). That is enough soap opera plot to fill any evening in the theater. However, Malvolio (Geoff Knox) loves Olivia.

Sir Toby Belch (Derrick Winger), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Jason Leupold) and Maria (Holly Humes) plot to turn Olivia against Malvolio. This plot brought plenty of laughter from the audience and demonstrated what good actors Geoff Knox, Winger, Humes and Leupold are when they have the right roles.

The elegant Lara Knox is lovely and wears beautiful gowns. She is a gifted comic actor.

One of the highlights of the production was Joe Pine as Feste, the clown. Pine owns his role with physical humor, line delivery and singing. We are fortunate to have Pine in our acting community. He improves the quality of every production he tackles. His performance is worth the price of admission.

Tess Burgler has honed her ability to play comedy and manages to earn every laugh Shakespeare wrote in her lines. 

Terry Burgler did his own bit of gender bending and made the cast as modern as can be by selecting the talented Karen Wood as the sea captain. 

Before the performance of “Twelfth Night,” the company performs a 30-minute “Greenshow.” One of the highlights of this “Greenshow” is a demonstration of stage fighting by Ryan Zarecki and Pine. These men demonstrate how difficult, yet exciting, stage fights can be. Zarecki was the fight coordinator for ‘Twelfth Night” and he’ll fill those same duties with the company’s second play of the summer, “Henry IV, Part I,” which will run July 31 through Aug. 17.

Tickets are available at 330-673-8761 or www.ohioshakespeare.com.


David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association.

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