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Goofy mix-ups; happy ending.

Byline: Bob Keefer The Register-Guard

ASHLAND - William Shakespeare's gender-bending `Twelfth Night,' which opened at the outdoor Elizabethan Theatre this month, is the most-produced of the Bard's plays in the 70-year history of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

It was, in fact, the festival's very first performance, on July 2, 1935. That's because `Twelfth Night' is solid romantic comedy - comedy that just works, as the ad people might say. In some ways, it's an Elizabethan chick flick.

Basically, identical boy-and-girl twins are separated in a shipwreck. The girl, Viola, sees her beloved brother Sebastian washed away, presumably to drown, and finds herself cast ashore in the nation of Illyria. There she disguises herself as a boy, names herself Cesario, and in that guise signs on as a page with Duke Orsino. The duke dispatches her (him?) on a romantic errand to woo Olivia, who is in mourning for her own dead brother and thus unavailable.

Got all that? Suffice it to say, the ironies multiply like hamsters, but it all comes out right by the end, where the plot winds up with - what else? - the reappearance of the lost Sebastian and a handful of weddings.

The new Ashland show - this is the 15th separate pro- duction of "Twelfth Night" the festival has put on - moves forward with workmanlike energy.

The closest thing to a star in this show is probably Linda Morris, who plays a dry but saucy Cesario/Viola. Morris, who has been with the festival for five seasons, is light on her feet and with her wit, as well.

Her Viola moves through Illyria in an attitude of gentle bemusement. One of her best routines comes early on, when she pantomimes learning to walk heavy footed, like a man.

An audience favorite was Christopher DuVal as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a knight who has attached himself to Olivia's household. DuVal plays the role with Valley-boy insouciance, full of hip attitude and clowning that's only occasionally over the top.

Kenneth Albers does a fine and nuanced Malvolio, a puritanical steward in Olivia's household who is set up for a delicious romantic fall by a scheming lady's maid.

Albers brings surprising substance to what could be a cardboard role, and his ultimate humiliation thus becomes both funny and touching.

If you're a fan of Shakespearean comedy, by all means go see this one. If you're not certain, this is an excellent production with which to sample the genre and find out.

CAPTION(S):

In ``Twelfth Night,'' Viola, played by Linda Morris (left), disguises herself as a boy, Cesario, to get a job as a court page. The disguise is good enough to fool Countess Olivia (Robin Goodrin Nordli), who tries to seduce Cesario. Sir Toby Belch, played by Robert Sicular (left), and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Christopher DuVal) celebrate their plot to win the love of Olivia for Sir Andrew.
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Title Annotation:Arts & Literature
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jun 26, 2005
Words:476
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