June 13 2014 12:00 AM

Lamb's Players Theatre sets classic in resort locale

Robert Smyth (on floor) leads the hilarity in "Twelfth Night"
Ken Jacques

Shakespeare's comedy Twelfth Night is a play that I've probably seen at least 12 times. As much as I enjoy its hapless doings, mistaken identities and irresistible pranksters (Sir Toby Belch, Andrew Aguecheek and Feste the clown), the novelty has to wear off at some point, right? So what a happy surprise to discover a delightful contemporary production at Lamb's Players Theatre in Coronado directed by Robert Smyth.

Now, when I say "contemporary," I mean contemporary for Shakespeare. The setting is 1949 in Coronado, complete with a red-roofed Hotel Del backdrop and the piped-in sound of crashing waves and crying seagulls. But this treat of a show is not about mere atmospherics. The eagerly delivered performances are among the funniest I've ever seen at Lamb's: Smyth himself is a precociously drunken Toby Belch, complete with lots of belching; Brian Mackey is excusably all over the place as Aguecheek, mop-top haircut and all; Brian Rickel has the easy-laughs part of the straight-laced, duped Malvolio but does not disappoint; as Feste, Cris O'Bryon not only cracks wise but also plays a baby grand piano, presides over a glass tip jar and croons as if he were the late-night guy in the Hotel Del lobby; Christy Yael-Cox, co-artistic director of Intrepid Shakespeare Company in Encinitas, is whimsical and lovely-acting instead of directing Shakespeare this time-in the role of Olivia, who, in this production, is owner of the seaside resort hotel. There's no other way to say it but that this is a charming Twelfth Night all the way around. 

It runs through July 6.


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