Overly hardened is the world when praise of pleasantness sounds like backhanded tedium. Pleasant, these days, is enough, and if the Immortal Bard’s frolicsome romance Twelfth Night isn’t pleasant enough, nothing is. Originally staged under the comelier title What You Will, this breezy comedy of mistaken identity is spring’s hearty harbinger — warm, teasing, naughtily o’ersprung but supremely good-natured, containing nothing darker in conspiracy than two drunkards ensuring that their lady’s uptight servant gets righteously punk’d.
Lane Community College’s production of Twelfth Night is every bit the “feast of fun” director Judith Roberts wants it to be. Like a tragedy spun in reverse, it opens in chaos — a smartly staged shipwreck, all thundercrack and strobe darkness — and concludes in melodic bonhomie. Everything in-between is riotous jesting, besotted revelry and playful foreplay, as Viola (Sarah Glidden), washed ashore on Illyria and believing her twin brother Sebastian (Joseph Tanner Paul) to be drowned, disguises herself as a man in order to help Duke Orsino (Dane Olson) woo the aggrieved Lady Olivia (Talia Meade) ... meanwhile, the liquored-up sirs Belch (Joe Cronin) and Aguecheek (Sean Dugan) play an elaborate prank on Malvolio (Clay Johnson), convincing this stick-up-his-ass steward that his lady, Olivia, loves him dearly.
Roberts and her fine cast play it swift and sure, allowing the airy sophistication of Shakespeare’s wordplay to cast its seductive spell. A small ensemble adds live music, and the mobile set is elegantly switcheroo’d between rapidly passing scenes (though LCC’s productions remain far too brightly lit). As Roberts notes, this comedy “elevates” the role of the Fool, and she’s found a most excellent Feste in Jonathan Edwards, a first-year student of tremendous talent: As Olivia’s court jester, Edwards is by turns wry and ridiculous, and his conglomerate skills of musicianship, badinage and physical comedy drive this crackerjack production.
Twelfth Night plays through April 28 at LCC’s Blue Door Theatre; lanecc.edu/tickets