Fiasco Theater, a group of Brown alumni best known for their streamlined, energetic stagings of Shakespeare, is back, this time at the Classic Stage Company for a revival of Twelfth Night. Fiasco is at its best when the material is light and conducive to their zany inclinations and at its worst when they select plays too complicated or too dark for this approach. Thus, they found their greatest success in the fluffy and little-loved Two Gentleman of Verona but stumbled when tackling Measure for Measure, a play that takes sexual assault as its central subject.
Twelfth Night falls somewhere in the middle. The play certainly has a great number of opportunities to showcase Fiasco’s talent, and the genial, hammy theatrics of Andy Grotelueschen (Sir Toby Belch) and Paco Tolson (Sir Andrew Aguecheek) are a sheer delight. It is clear that these actors are genuinely fond of each other and their amiability is often contagious.
Still, Twelfth Night is not unstained by tragedy: it begins with Olivia (Jessie Austrian) mourning the death of her brother and ends with Feste’s (Ben Steinfeld) undue and “notorious” abuse of Malvolio (Paul L. Coffey). Furthermore, many of the lovers who pair off in the final scene hardly know one another, suggesting that their marital bliss may be short-lived. None of this is acknowledged here; the tone of cheer and celebration never flags. Perhaps I would be more forgiving were there a greater sense of purpose, but this Twelfth Night is only in it for the yuks. As it is one of the most frequently mounted plays in the canon, this is simply not enough.