The key to “Twelfth Night” is the pacing. It must start off at a trot, quickly switch to a canter and be moving at a gallop by intermission so that theatergoers barely have time to catch their breaths before they are astride again rushing headlong for the curtain call.
Ten Bucks Theatre Company’ s production of William Shakespeare’ s comedy, directed by Julie Lisnet, never let up on that running pace at Saturday evening’ s show in Brewer’ s Indian Trail Park.
That and the excellent timing of the cast, made up of college-aged actors and Ten Bucks veterans, makes “Twelfth Night” the company’ s best and most consistent production since it began doing Shakespeare in the Park five years ago.
The Bard’ s story is a familiar one that includes a girl disguised as a boy, a drowned brother who isn’ t really dead, a duke whose unrequited love for a lady is matched only by the love the girl has for a duke. As always with the Bard, the characters that provide the biggest laughs aren’ t the lovers, but the servants, fools and moochers that orbit them.
Lisnet, a veteran of Penobscot Theatre Company’ s now-defunct Bangor riverfront Maine Shakespeare Festival, wrings all the bawdy comedy out the Bard’ s script. Her greatest gift, however, is not in mining the comedy from Shakespeare’ s words but in getting the young actors in the company who play the lovers to understand and believe the lines they are delivering.
Rebecca Bailey as Viola, Simon Ferland as Sebastian, Sarah Farnham as Olivia and Hans-Stefan Ducharme as Duke Orsino gave excellent performances. The women were especially good at capturing the nuances in the dialogue. The four have worked together in productions at the University of Maine and it shows. The characters created by these actors communicated with each other rather than the actors who portrayed them simply reciting lines.
The stars of “Twelfth Night” undoubtedly are Sir Toby Belch, the mooching relative, his friend and source of funds, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, the fool Feste, along with servant and adviser respectively to Olivia, Maria and Malvolio. They create a comedic team that many over the centuries have sought to imitate. Few ever have succeeded in duplicating.
Arthur Morison is stupendous as Feste the fool. He performed Shakespeare so perfectly it’ s as if he has had extended conversations with the playwright. Gibran Graham as Sir Toby Belch and Emily Gammon as the comely Maria were nearly as good, but it was Jonathan Anderson’ s portrayal of Sir Andrew that left audiences doubled over with laughter and talking about him on the way home. Anderson played the perfect fop in a shoulder-length blonde wig. His limber pratfalls and high-pitched squeals added immensely to the hilarity.
Ron Lisnet reprised the role of Malvolio, one he played to acclaim in 1997 in the Maine Shakespeare Festival. His dour portrayal was the perfect foil to Anderson’ s frantic antics. Malvolio will be played by Bernard Hope, an Englishman raised on Shakespeare and Monty Python this weekend and next.
Ten Buck’ s production of “Twelfth Night” is the best Shakespeare presented in Greater Bangor for at least a decade. It’ s been a long dry spell and lovers of the Bard should gratefully quench their thirst at Julie Lisnet’ s delicious well.