Play:    Twelfth Night

Group:    Insight Theatre Company

Venue:    Heagney Theater, Nerinx Hall, 530 East Lockwood

Dates:    February 5,6,8

Tickets:    $10-$20; contact 314-968-1505, ext. 131

Story:    The Bard’s comedy about identical twins, mistaken identities, women disguised as men and women falling in love with women whom they believe are men, and all the ensuing shenanigans, are at the crux of Twelfth Night, a title taken from the traditional 12 days of Christmas that begin with Christmas Day and end with the celebration of the Epiphany on January 6.  In the bright and breezy tale, a shipwreck leaves Viola in Illyria believing that her twin brother Sebastian has died in the storm.  Fearing for her safety, she disguises herself as a man named Cesario and becomes a servant to Duke Orsino.

    The Duke sends her as emissary to the woman he loves, Olivia, who promptly falls in love with “Cesario.”  Olivia’s arrogant steward, Malvolio, incurs the wrath of Olivia’s servant, Maria, and Olivia’s drunken uncle, Toby Belch, when he attempts to evict Toby and his pals, Sir Andrew and Feste the fool.  Maria concocts a scheme to convince Malvolio that Olivia loves him, prompting him to dress and act ludicrously to win Olivia’s heart, which he attempts to the delight of Maria, Toby, Sir Andrew and fellow servant Fabian.  Meanwhile, Viola has fallen in love with the unsuspecting Orsino, while her brother Sebastian and his friend Antonio have also survived the shipwreck and eventually enter Illyria, joining in the pratfalls and comic mistakes.

Highlights:    Director Maggie Ryan has filled this Insight Theatre Company production with a bevy of fine actors and actresses who carry off their assigned roles with delicious accomplishment.  Most impressive are Gwen Wotawa, who exudes considerable energy and charm as Viola and her disguised alter ego, Cesario, and Amy Loui as the aggressively amorous Olivia.  Alan Knoll is consistently delightful as the swaggering roustabout Uncle Toby, while Roger Erb delivers another of his steady and sure performances in the role of Sebastian.  Cameron Ulrich makes for a splendid Antonio and also provides the smoothly executed swordplay choreography, while Katie Puglisi and Mike Amoroso offer fine comic delivery in the roles of Fabian and Sir Andrew, respectively.  As Maria, Suki Peters fills the role with an energizing dose of sass and flair that enlivens the proceedings.

Other Info:    While not up to the performances of the others, Casey Boland does a nice turn as Orsino and Paul Balfe is droll and sufficiently pompous as Malvolio, although playing him more stuffy than smug.  Jim Short as Feste is engaging at first but too often plays the part more over the top than is necessary.  He does demonstrate a most pleasant singing voice on some of the show’s tunes composed delightfully by Duane Bridges.

    Bridges’ evocative period score is played most winsomely by bassist Grace Fitter, guitarist Amanda Jerry, violinist Liz Maassen and an unnamed keyboardist/percussionist.  Sean Savoie creates the handsome lighting design that bathes the action in a rainbow of hues, Tori Meyer adds the suitable sound design and JC Krajicek outfits the players in a number of handsome togs.  Additionally, Jim Ryan’s set is an impressive array of columns and steps that support the musicians’ performing space.

    The primary problem with this production is Ryan’s overly languid pacing, which makes the show’s three hours seem to crawl more than one would like.  Additionally, the single, 15-minute intermission would be better replaced by two, 10-minute breaks that could provide respite from the lengthy goings-on without hurting the flow of action.  Still, it’s a solid production that showcases a number of fine talents.

Rating:    A 4 on a scale of 1-to-5.