The last time I saw Twelfth Night, Mark Rylance played both Viola and Sebastian. It’s an understatement to say that’s a tough act to follow but in the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival’s production there is nothing missing from Kerry Warren’s Viola. This is her debut season with the HVSF and her talent is sure to shine through in all her subsequent performances. From Michael Broadhurst’s opening speech and intermittent guitar playing, to Stephen Paul Johnson’s yellow-stockinged Malvolio, to the string section of Maryn Shaw and Serena Ebony Miller who materialize whenever the food of love is required, the entire cast sparkles as individuals and ensemble.
The performance that stuck in my head the next day was Sean McNall’s Sir Andrew. From his entrance, gesticulating like the long-lost cousin of Dan Aykroyd and Steve Martin’s Festrunk Brothers, to the broad physical comedy of his sword-play and hose-play, Sean McNall’s Sir Andrew keeps the spirit of the 16th Century playwright alive while reinforcing his relevance to 21st Century audiences. Some jokes never get old. Among them are cases of mistaken identity, knocking the high-and-mighty from their pedestals, ridiculous displays of unrequited love, and the buffoonery of a man who speaks like a warrior but acts like a coward.
Moritz von Stuelpnagel directs this delicate but hearty work with great skill. He takes full advantage of the benefits of staging Shakespeare in an open tent where actors have the freedom of movement impossible on a stage, giving the audience a preview of each characters’ entrance as they come strolling, charging, or tumbling across the great lawn.
For New York City dwellers there is a bus from Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center leaving 4:00 on Saturdays for a round-trip fee of $28. You can also take the Metro-North from Grand Central to the Cold Spring stop and pick up an $8 round trip shuttle bus. Better yet, get there in the afternoon and take a picnic lunch and bottle of wine to the luxurious grounds overlooking the Hudson. When it’s showtime they ring a bell and have secure shelves to store your supplies while you watch the show.
For more info visit the Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival website at hvshakespeare.org.