TWELFTH NIGHT - Actors Co-op Theatre

Actors Co-op David Schall Theater April 7, 2024

Reviewed by Chris Cassone

  "Some are born great.

    Some achieve greatness and

    Some have greatness thrust upon them."  - Malvolio, 2,v

The Actor's Coop achieved a bit of greatness on Saturday night as their "Twelfth Night" rang in their 37 th season of quality drama. Here, director Michael T. Kachingwe gave a decidedly boisterous touch to the Bard's top comedy, injecting an island feel throughout the production.

While not at all an Elizabethan rendition, shipwrecked of the coast of Illyria (present day Albania for Shakespeare but the South Pacific for us,) Kachingwe chose a more Margaritaville feel as the show was infused from start to finish with island rhythms, steel drums and a Gilligan décor. The cast danced, swayed and frolicked at the mere sound of the drums and that became infectious. Surprisingly, it all worked. In fact, it gave a sense of far-away to the action and made the cross-identity easier to fathom.

            For that is what is at the heart of the play: cross-dressing, sexual desire and youth desperate for love. Mary Leeholland as the playful yet coy Viola-dressed-as-Cesario stole the show. Her sweet waif look was balanced by her impressive Shakespearean delivery. It's one thing to memorize and spout his words. It is quite another to infuse real life into them so we, the audience, are moved. Let me say that most of the cast fell into this category. There were also outstanding performances by Chloe Babbes as Feste, the haughty fool, Howard Leder as the waspy and clueless Sir Andrew and William Viriato as the cringe-worthy, malevolent Malvolio. When the three amigos are at work, laughs ensued. Issac W. Jay's Toby Belch, Kevin Shewey as Fabian and the aforementioned Howard Leder as Sir Andrew were a wonderful troupe of Stooges-Marx Brothers-Hope and Crosby, bringing the house down just before the intermission. Their timing was impeccable and I, for one, couldn't take my eyes off them (until Viola returned.)

            The songs were valiant attempt at putting Shakespeare's lyrics into current feel, an AABA format and a singable melody. The addition of acoustic guitars raised the stakes but everyone who picked one up could play decently.

            I cannot say enough about the set design of Hanalei Vasquez and costume design by Kelly Tsan, for they both could have been taken for granted. Yet staging in the South Seas with an Island motif gave both a lot of latitude to work with. We weren't subjected to flip-flops and hammocks, thank God. Instead, there was an attempt to bridge the seventeenth with the twenty-first century and both pulled it off.  Orsinio looked regal yet relaxed enough for a luau. The captain looked like he could pilot a three-masted ship and the Minnow. Maybe Harold Bloom would object but, overall, the "island casual" look worked for this reviewer.

Let's say it right here that there was little to no attempt to disguise girl as boy or boy as girl. We were to just assume it and that worked fine. For a small, underfunded production to worry about Victor-Victoria or Tootsy makeup would have been madness. Drop it in the audience's lap and let us deal with it. And we dealt with it. The rolling, bifurcated stage was split down the middle and constantly spun and refreshed for scene changes. Bill Graham used it on Woodstock and many Broadway productions now utilize the "turntable" stage. Here, it was genius.

So, brush up on your Shakespeare and visit the Actor's Coop for an evening of love and desire.

"If music be the food of love, play on." (Orsino, 1,1)

Twelfth Night plays Fri-Sat at 7:30; Sun at 2:30 and runs through May12 in the David Schall Theatre, Hollywood Presbyterian Church campus, 1760 N. Gower, Hollywood.  Additional Saturday Matinees April 13th & May 4th at 2:30 pm

(323) 462-8460 or visit       


Posted By DH Magazine on April 10, 2024 07:11 pm | Permalink