theaters continue traditions in new homes
By William Shakespeare, directed by Ellen Kaplan. Hampshire
Shakespeare Company at the Lord Jeffery Inn, Boltwood Walk, Amherst
(Tue. and Thu.) and the Hartsbrook School, 193 Bay Road, Hadley
(Fri.-Sun.), through July 9. Info at www.hampshireshakespeare.org.
a distance, it might remind you of a sailing ship on a grassy sea.
Hampshire Shakespeare Company's new multi-level outdoor stage rises like
a ghostly galleon from an open meadow. On a breezy evening, the gauzy
curtains lining its wooden hull billow like sails in the twilight.
The backdrop to this schooner of a stage is nothing less than the
full sweep of the Holyoke range. The early scenes are drenched in
setting sunlight. And if that doesn't carry you away with the bucolity
of it all, as dusk falls a herd of curious cows gathers at a nearby
fence to hear Shakespeare's verse floating through the air.
Having lost its Look Park venue because of scheduling conflicts, the
company has lucked into a perfectly enchanting spot in rural Hadley.
Despite being in a wide-open space, it's acoustically superior to the
troupe's other stage, at the Lord Jeff in Amherst: the concave facade of
the school captures and reflects the actors' voices.
The first production of the company's 10th summer season is just as
charming as its setting. Director Ellen Kaplan has caught the spirit of
Twelfth Night -- a romance built on sweet absurdities and counterpointed
by antic foolery -- and inspired the members of her mostly amateur cast
to their best efforts.
Twelfth Night combines several of Shakespeare's favorite conventions,
including shipwreck, mistaken identity, girls posing as boys, and the
elaborate practical joke played on a self-regarding patsy. As the butt
of the latter, company veteran Walter Carroll finally gets a spotlight
role and plays it to the hilt. His Malvolio, the officious house
steward, is a dandy lurking in a stuffed shirt; when he's tricked into
thinking his cue has come, he bursts forth in preposterous splendor.
Malvolio's quartet of tormentors is equally amusing: James MacRostie
as an almost catatonically drunken Toby Belch, Laura McDonnell as a wily
Maria, Marck Morrison as a sweet-singing Feste and Marina Goldman as a
goofy (as in Goofy) Andrew Aguecheek.
The romance in Twelfth Night is a revolving triangle: Orsino loves
Olivia, who loves Viola, who she thinks is a man, who secretly loves
Orsino. While student actors Sharon Horowitz and Justin McClintock give
Orsino and Viola a lot of spicy energy, they are too inexperienced and
undisciplined to fully convince. But Kelly Powers brings poise, wit,
smarts and good voice training to her performance as Olivia; she's a