Published Saturday
June 21, 2003

Review: Acting makes 'Night' a delight

BY JIM DELMONT                                                                    Back to NEWS

 

WORLD-HERALD STAFF WRITER

The nation's second-largest Shakespeare festival is off to a bang with a perfect rendering of the Bard's comedy "Twelfth Night."

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Shakespeare on the Green opens its summer season at 8 tonight at Elmwood Park with a performance of "Twelfth Night." The cast includes Jill Anderson and Michael Kroeker, front, and Cork Ramer, in tree.

Before a crowd of 1,800 Thursday night, a brilliant cast led by a core of veteran New York performers was complemented by top local talent, all under the masterful supervision of Cindy Melby Phaneuf.

Phaneuf coached her actors to employ a relaxed American vernacular that made every word clear and every syllable effective. Phaneuf also directed the 1995 Nebraska Shakespeare Festival production of the play.

Set in 1913 at a vacation watering spot for the wealthy in Greece, this "Twelfth Night" is acted out on a set that's a timeless vision of Greece - an Aegean dream villa, white and enameled blue, decorated with flowers.

Twelfth Night
What: Shakespeare on the Green

When: 8 p.m. tonight, Sunday and July 2 and 5

Where: Elmwood Park, behind the UNO campus at 60th and Dodge Streets

Admission: Free but contributions encouraged

Bill van Deest's set and Sharon Sobel's anyone-for-tennis costumes summon a pre-World War I feel of the idle rich, perfect for the play's romantic high jinks, mistaken identities and slapdash humor.

Not enough can be said about the acting. Scott Freeman, who is directing the festival's other show, "Measure for Measure," is so good as Malvolio that you will think you're watching a Broadway show.

But right up there with him are Bernie Sheredy as an Americanized Sir Toby Belch, the chronic drunk and scoundrel who plots against Malvolio, and Jason O'Connell as the twit, Sir Andrew (offering moments of inspired comic invention).

Also giving fine performances are Cork Ramer as the court fool; Elizabeth Zins as the lovely, haughty Countess Olivia; Michael Kroeker as Sebastian (twin to Olivia); and David Christopher Wells as Orsino, the Duke of Illyria. Freeman, Sheredy, O'Connell, Zins and Wells are all New York-based Equity actors.

Holding their own with this sterling group were local actors Jill Anderson, Ramer, Kenny Glenn, Kevin Barratt (who was in the 1995 version) and several University of Nebraska at Omaha actors. For example, Deborah Anne Radloff's portrayal of a boisterous lady-in-waiting more than matched the vocal authority of the professionals in her scenes.

Anderson, who played Radloff's role in 1995, graduates here to the female lead, Viola, who cross-dresses as Cesario, bringing wit, charm and a good singing voice to her double role.

The Duke loves Olivia, but she has fallen for Cesario, who, in turn, loves the Duke. Malvolio wants to marry Olivia, and a gaggle of low characters plots against him.

Adding to the drollery is Michael Croswell's delightful musical score, itself as witty as Shakespeare's puns.

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