It's your basic pop production of Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" at the Source Theatre's Warehouse Rep.
You know the look. Most of the actors are wearing blue jeans and Adidases. Orsino sports a silk bathrobe. Olivia turns up in a red mandarin jacket over black pajama pants. The set consists of a series of wooden cubes, piled high. The action is underscored periodically by piano music that wanders freely from ragtime to jazz. And among the props, you'll spot racquetball paraphernalia, garden clippers and an African drum.
Director Joseph Banno wants to take a freewheeling approach to the Bard, and if that means sacrificing the Elizabethan poetry to contemporary American speech patterns, so be it. Banno is after a loose, hip style that will free Shakespeare from all the academic trappings. His production is wildly uneven -- it works about a third of the time -- but at its best it alternately brings to mind "Your Own Thing," "Laugh-In" and, believe it or not, "Tootsie."
Actually, the "Tootsie" associations are there largely because of Katrina Van Duyn, who plays Olivia. To refresh your memory, Olivia has fallen for a young man, who is actually a woman in disguise, and much of "Twelfth Night" is concerned with their one-way courtship. Van Duyn's resemblance to Jessica Lange in "Tootsie" is rather startling -- same height, same lanky frame, same halo of soft blond curls. But more to the point, Van Duyn also projects a similar aura of tenderness and vulnerability, as she finds herself caught up in a bewildering love affair.
She really is one of those actresses who grow more attractive in states of emotional dishevelment, and I suspect you will be looking her way most of the time. Otherwise, your eye is likely to go to Michael Willis, the roly-poly extrovert, who plays Sir Toby Belch. Dressed like a race track tipster out of "Guys and Dolls," Willis has mischievous little eyes, a crooked smile that goes halfway up one side of his face, and all sorts of devilish schemes brewing behind his broad brow.
He's not above borrowing an intonation from W.C. Fields or pushing a cream pie (a cream cake, really, as in "cakes and ale") in the dour puss of Malvolio. What's impressive here is the ease of his clowning and its inventiveness. If his presence tends to turn a Shakespeare comedy into a Hollywood two-reeler, you'd be ungrateful to complain.
Most of the other performances, you see, are routine at best and some are painfully forced. For a production like this to come out on top, you need an ensemble of actors with matched skills and congenial temperaments. For all the energy and playfulness on display at Source's Warehouse Rep, there is not a whole lot of discipline, and frankly I wasn't entirely certain that some of the cast members (chief among them, Derek Jones, who plays Feste) knew what they were talking about.
But whenever this "Twelfth Night" flounders, as it does regularly, you can at least gaze upon Van Duyn. Lovely consolation, as it turns out.
TWELFTH NIGHT. By William Shakespeare. Directed by Joseph Banno. Set, Joe Musumeci; lighting, V. Hana Sellers; costumes, Hayley Hoffman. With Jeff Peters, William Freimuth, Michael Willis, Lou Dickey, Brian Nelson, Derek Jones, Katrina Van Duyn, Barbara Klein. At the Source Warehouse Rep through Feb. 2.