TWELFTH NIGHT by William Shakespeare, directed by David Storch, with David Collins, Zainab Musa, Geneviève Steele, Lwam Ghebrehariat, Bruce Gooch, Chapelle Jaffe, Michael Spence, Michael Spencer-Davis, Jovanni Sy and Sanjay Talwar. Presented by Canadian Stage at the Dream Amphitheatre (High Park). Runs to August 31, Tuesday-Sunday 8 pm. Pwyc ($15 sugg, children free). 416-367-1652, ext 500. Rating: NN Rating: NN
Director David Storch's staging of Shakespeare 's comedy Twelfth Night aims for a more sombre mood than usual. That's not a bad thing, but the uneven quality of acting and some peculiar directing choices make for a mixed production. Storch brings a dark edge to the tale of the shipwrecked Viola ( Zainab Musa ), who disguises herself as a boy in the court of Orsino ( David Collins ) and is sent to woo the obstinate Olivia ( Geneviève Steele ). In comic fashion, Viola falls in love with Orsino and Olivia is smitten with the cross-dressing page. Fools, clowns and gulls make up the other central figures.
The production's sober note might work better if some of the actors offered more depth and had a surer grasp of the text. There's a sameness to Musa's work, and she provides little sense of the work's poetry or emotional nuances.
Steele's Olivia might be more successful if Storch had encouraged an initial dignity from which she strays when romance clouds her vision.
Still, there are some fine performances. Collins, who knows how to speak the text, has a strong manic note from his first entry, suggesting that he's a potentially dangerous master and lover. As Viola's brother Sebastian, Lwam Ghebrehariat has an appealing open quality and takes a more believable and heartfelt journey than his stage sibling. Michael Spence presents an energetic and twinkly-eyed Feste, Jovanni Sy an entertainingly Valley-boy Fabian and Michael Spencer-Davis a snobbish Malvolio, deserving of his punishment.
The standout is Sanjay Talwar 's physically and verbally adept Andrew Aguecheek, a cash cow to be milked by the conniving Toby Belch ( Bruce Gooch ). Filled with bravado one minute, drained of confidence the next, the silly knight is both sad and funny. In Talwar's skilful performance, the two opposing qualities feed each other.