ARVADA - As noted in our overview of the Front Range theater scene last week, the Arvada Center is only about an hour from Frisco, and its current production of "Twelfth Night" is well worth the quick hop down the hill.
Produced in collaboration with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival, "Twelfth Night" is your quintessential Shakespeare comedy: Kick it off with a shipwreck, throw in a few cases of mistaken identity and add enough spontaneous romantic entanglements to require a scorecard and we're off to the races.
Other than being plenty of fun, "Twelfth Night" is good starter Shakespeare for those who'd like to get their feet wet but aren't quite ready for a heavy-duty tragedy or history. We took our 10-year-old along Wednesday night, and he enjoyed it a great deal (although I think he exaggerated when he said he understood all of it - a claim I would hesitate to make for myself).
The play is staged in the Arvada Center's smaller (320-seat) Black Box Theater, and what a nice space it is. Intimate and casual, the stadium-style seating offers clear views of those in front and plenty of legroom. That's important when sitting through an almost three-hour show, as is the ability to bring drinks in with you.
This production of "Twelfth Night" is done in fairly traditional fashion, with a highly capable cast and a simple but well-wrought set. Stand-outs in the cast included Jake Walker as Feste, Logan Ernstthal as Sir Toby Belch, Ian Andersen as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Timothy McCracken as Malvolio and Jamie Ann Romero as Fabian.
As the clown/minstrel Feste, Walker is all whiskers and wit, deconstructing those around him (including his employer, Olivia) while taking their money and strumming his lute. Ernstthal does a wonderful turn as the drunken but likable lout Toby Belch, while McCracken as Olivia's uptight dandy of a steward Malvolio is splendid as the severely put-upon would-be suitor to his lady.
Of course, "Twelfth Night" is primarily the story of twins Viola (Kate Berry) and Sebastian (Josh Robinson), and the absurd sequence of events that ultimately lands them in the arms of Duke Orsino (Geoffrey Kent) and Olivia (Rachel Fowler). As the two female leads, Berry and Fowler are perfectly fine, although somehow I ended up hoping to like them more than I did. As Fabian, Romero was so fun and poised that I couldn't help but wonder if she'd been better in the Viola role, while Berry simply took Olivia's acerbic side so far to start that it was hard to see her amorously engaged.
Small quibbles, though, in an overall strong production of a show everyone should have a chance to see at some point.