As interpreted by the zany Troubadour Theater Co., “Twelfth Night,” the Bard’s famous (and lengthy) tale of mismatched lovers and mistaken identities, gets shrunk to its comic essentials and spiked with the music of ’70s pop band Three Dog Night to become “Twelfth Dog Night.” The show ends up a evening of silly, delirious fun boasting pratfalls, trampoline jumps, oversized clown shoes and silly slide whistle sound effects.
Director Matt Walker, who also steals the show as the jaunty jester, Feste, keeps the action light and effervescent. Occasionally, the manic pace does come to a sudden halt, or the tomfoolery gets so far away from the story that minds begin to wander, but such indiscretions are few and forgivable given the infectious humor of the rest of the show.
The story itself, though abbreviated and yukked-up, remains the same: Identical twins Viola (who’s black) and Sebastian (who isn’t) are separated in a shipwreck (earnestly enacted to the tune of “Gilligan’s Island”) and each presumes the other drowned. Sebastian is rescued by the stilt-walking, Italian-accented pirate Antonio; Viola is found by the foolish Feste and poses as a man to serve the pompous Duke, Orsino, with whom she becomes smitten. But Orsino loves the Countess Olivia and sends Viola –now called Cesario — to woo her. Olivia, natch, falls for Cesario (eventually prompting a wacky rendition of “Old Fashioned Love Song”). When Sebastian finally arrives in town, the comic mixups are endless.
Walker proves himself a nimble and dexterous clown with a hat, a sword and his own body, which slides, tumbles, springs and flies across the stage with seemingly as little effort as a sly wink to the audience. He also plays referee, pulling out a whistle to call “Foul!” when a bit goes awry. Other standouts are Rick Batella, as the petulant Malvolio (who, it is rightly observed, looks like a Klingon); Rachel Dara Wolfe, as the feisty Olivia; and Carissa Barnett, as Olivia’s handmaiden (who sports a prominent posterior and an envious flexibility).
To break the rules, one must know the rules — and the Troubadours, for all their shenanigans, have no need to brush up on their Shakespeare. They know it, and play it for every well-earned laugh they can get.