The Acting Company's production of "Twelfth Night; or What You Will," here this week as part of a national tour, is clear and competent.
The Viola, Pamela Nyberg, even looks plausible as a boy, thus sparing the audience the usual necessity of reminding itself that the other characters are not idiots for thinking her one. The Feste, Philip Goodwin, is so restrained that one could not possibly miss the point that he is there to supply philosophy, not hilarity. Patrick O'Connell as Orsino and Michele-Denise Woods as Olivia establish that those well-meaning characters are innocuous rather than fatuous with their inflated emotions. There is no question, from the thoughtless pranking of Richard S. Iglewski's Sir Toby Belch, Paul Walker's Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Lynn Causow's Maria, that their tormenting of Malvolio transcends forgivable fun; and if there were, Jeffrey Rubin's anguished interpretation of Malvolio would shame anyone who enjoyed it.
If there is a fault in all this capable work, it's exactly that there are no questions left, nor any new answers suggested. One does not have a sense of anyone's having gone at this venerable material with a fresh attitude and the desire to be playful with it, either intellectually or theatrically. It is academically sound, and it is flat.
The idea of the Acting Company, whose tours are a boon to both actors and audiences, has been upheld. The company is very professional, and traveling with a production of "Twelfth Night" that presents such a classic work intelligently is certainly a service.
But we may have been spoiled by exciting productions such as Arena Stage's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" this year and the usual standard of the Folger Theater Group. One cannot complain that "Twelfth Night" has not been done justice -- only that the concept of what-you-will has been omitted.
TWELFTH NIGHT -- At the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater through March 30.