Shakespeare's comedy Twelfth Night is a play that I've probably seen at least 12 times. As much as I enjoy its hapless doings, mistaken identities and irresistible pranksters (Sir Toby Belch, Andrew Aguecheek and Feste the clown), the novelty has to wear off at some point, right? So what a happy surprise to discover a delightful contemporary production at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado directed by Robert Smyth.
Now, when I say "contemporary," I mean contemporary for Shakespeare. The setting is 1949 in Coronado, complete with a red-roofed Hotel Del backdrop and the piped-in sound of crashing waves and crying seagulls. But this treat of a show is not about mere atmospherics. The eagerly delivered performances are among the funniest I've ever seen at Lamb's: Smyth himself is a precociously drunken Toby Belch, complete with lots of belching; Brian Mackey is excusably all over the place as Aguecheek, mop-top haircut and all; Brian Rickel has the easy-laughs part of the straight-laced, duped Malvolio but does not disappoint; as Feste, Cris O'Bryon not only cracks wise but also plays a baby grand piano, presides over a glass tip jar and croons as if he were the late-night guy in the Hotel Del lobby; Christy Yael-Cox, co-artistic director of Intrepid Shakespeare Company in Encinitas, is whimsical and lovely—acting instead of directing Shakespeare this time—in the role of Olivia, who, in this production, is owner of the seaside resort hotel. There's no other way to say it but that this is a charming Twelfth Night all the way around.
It runs through July 6.