IF PIZZA BE THE FOOD OF LOVE…
Well, that was frustrating. Now at the Wallis in Beverly Hills is England’s Filter Theatre, which deconstructs Twelfth Night to the bare walls (literally there’s no set). This isn’t even a deconstruction, really. It’s a slice-and-dice fringe affair with velcro hats and sticky balls, a real pizza delivery, tequila shots, conga lines, Macbooks, a few musical instruments, a lot of hijinks and a nearly incomprehensible rendering of the Bard’s romantic comedy. If you’ve never seen or read Twelfth Night before, you’ll have very little idea what’s going on. Basically, we’re watching eight supremely wonderful actors (and an onstage stage manager) playing fast and furious by low comedy rules, and some of it is funny indeed. Ferdy Roberts, in particular, finds nuances in that highfalutin steward Malvolio that I’ve never seen before (and he looks justly appalling in yellow hose and underwear). But a lot of set-ups end with a thud.
Someone should tell director Sean Holmes that his travelling troupe, which gets to improv as well, let many scenes fly by too fast while others have pauses big enough to drive a lorry through. The first 15 minutes promised a new world of storytelling, but the frivolity and Benny Hill wannabee Jonathan Broadbent get old–and just this side of irritating–before the 90 minutes are over. (And nobody, but nobody, can argue with the no fewer than 20 patrons who walked out during the show, even with the house lights up full!) I’m all for theatrical imagination and talent, but these folks are too aware of their irreverent high spirits, and parts that were supposedly made up on the spot look strangely rehearsed, which makes it feel indulgent. Worst of all, the silliness got in the way of storytelling. So if a slice of cold pizza with no arc and few laughs sounds like your thing, play on!
photo by Tristram Kenton
in association with the Royal Shakespeare Company
Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
Bram Goldsmith Theater
9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd in Beverly Hills
ends on March 19, 2017
for tickets ($35 – $85; subject to change), call 310.746.4000 or visit The Wallis
next stop: Berkeley, CA; for more info, visit Filter Theatre