The Bard in the Park: Telluride Theatre’s “12th Night”

The Bard in the Park: Telluride Theatre’s “12th Night”

Editor’s note. Telluride Theatre’s “Twelfth Night” left no doubt that even 450 years (almost) after his death, Shakespeare is able to lure audiences with his uncanny ability to draw out the quirks of human nature. And because human nature is complex, sometimes cruel, often the Bard’s rapier humor gets really cozy with sorrow and pain. In “Twelfth Night,” he touches upon a wide range of emotions from love to raw hate. The plot also addresses real social concerns around gender, class, cruelty and violence in general. However, under freshman director Buff Hooper, the more difficult themes surface, but never dominate: darkness may lurk in the shadows of Illyria, but it is overwhelmed by the overall lightheartedness of the colorful revel. The play’s romance and bawdiness elicited a steady stream of sighs and laughter from the crowd opening night, making those few moments of unease (Malvolio’s lamentable confinement and Antonio’s supposed betrayal) if not downright delicious, at least palatable. Read Clint’s review for further details….

shakesWilliam Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night, or What You Will” opened on the Telluride Town Park stage Saturday, July 20, 2013. The play is one of my favorites among the Bard’s Comedies. Gender-bending, misplaced affections, family members lost and reunited? This play has it all. Telluride Theatre, carrying on the long-time tradition of predecessor Telluride Repertory Theatre, runs “Twelfth Night” through Saturday, July 27. (Dark Wednesday, July 24).

Popular local actor and set designer, Buff Hooper makes his Shakespearian directorial debut – and plays the part of Antonio in this production. The long years veterans of the Telluride Rep spent working on physical theatre are apparent in Hooper’s direction. Often during opening night, body language had to stand in for the Bard’s words, as voices tended to get lost to the expanse of the open-air stage, one of the biggest challenges of putting on a production in Town Park. Various seating arrangements and set designs have been tried over the years. This year’s solution was to have the audience seated on risers on the west side of the stage. My last-minute arrival put me in the top row, far stage right, not an optimal location for my age-affected ears. The choice to have Duke Orsino deliver the opening speech (“If music be the food of love…”) while reclined made it impossible for me to see him from my elevated perch. These quibbles aside, I found the production delightful.

The simple, beautifully painted sets set off the action very effectively: five possible entrances/exits, including the path between the halves of the seating area, facilitated the flow of the action. Light-weight blocks on stage that stood in for seating and platforms, hiding places, etc, were used and moved effectively and effortlessly throughout the performance. I was impressed with the confident delivery of each actor’s lines. Entrances and exits were crisp and appropriate. Kudos to the director and the players for allowing the plot to advance at its natural pace: comedy well-delivered.

Particularly effective was the decision to hide the comedic trio, Sir Toby, Sir Andrew and Fabian, in plain sight during Malvolio’s scene in which he discovers a letter supposedly penned by Olivia. As Malvolio preens and plots his path to Olivia’s bed, the three nearly burst out of their hiding place to do him harm. Well executed. Very funny.

Though this review will not detail each performance, I would be remiss in not calling out Ashley Boling’s portrayal of the Fool, Feste. In my opinion, it was one of the local thespian’s best performances ever. Feste’s twisted logic and double entendres were delivered with nuance and never over-the-top. Boling also sang – a cappella no less – with aplomb.

The Denman sisters, Camille and Juliet, enhanced the production, not only playing their violins, but taking part in the action and delivering lines with confidence. I hope we’ll see more of them. Laya number of contemporary recent musical riffs (e.g. “Tequilla”) over the very Elizabethan theme of the play was another nice, humorous touch.

The eye-popping costumes were mostly period-appropriate and very sumptuous, with exception of the identical naval uniforms of Viola and Sebastian, which make the point that despite the differences of their ages and sex, the two are meant to be easily mistaken for one another.

A Telluride touch on opening night (probably a one-off): The yellow Lab, usually lying quietly at his mistress’ feet, who could be counted on to bark when the action on-stage got too boisterous. Not distracting, just a single bark to tell the miscreants to knock it off.

I expect the players will project more as the week goes on, but I enjoyed the opener just as it was. And I heard favorable comments from other audience members as we made our way across the darkened park after the play. I believe Shakespeare is worth seeing, whether performed by a professional company or by a small-town amateur group. Congratulations to Telluride Theatre, cast and crew for a fun evening.


Ashley Boling- Feste

Alessandra Cassanova- Olivia

Peter Chadman- Fabian

Zachary B. Davis- Captain/Officer 2/Priest

Camille Denman- musician/Servant

Juliet Denman- Musician/Servant

Joslyn Doerge- Valentine/Officer 1

Michael Harold- Sir Toby Belch

Buff Hooper- Antonio

Emily Rose Koren- Maria

Peter Lundeen- Orsino

Evan MacMillan- Sir Andrew

Simon Perkovich- Sebastian

Anne Marie Tadvick- Viola

James Van Hooser- Malvolio


Directed by Buff Hooper

Lighting by Marc Froelich

Set Design by Scott Harris

Costume Design by Luci Reeves, Angela Watkins

Dramaturgy by Katie Parnello, Jackie Distefano, Devin McCarthy

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