Ah, delightful youth! Is there any other time in life when trickery and comic charms are so agreeably linked to romance, when confusion and questions of identity reign supreme, when love can stir the heart and blind the eye in the mere moment that it takes to look, to fall, to lose both breath and mind to instant, uncontrollable passion? Then, too, there is that place where the serious side of maturity is simply ignored. Age may supplant dewy fresh skin with wrinkles and frost dark hair with gray, but the heart may overcome it all if it retains a youthful vigor and carefree spirit—and a lively sense of humor, as well.
Director Kris Tabori emphasizes these young-in-years and young-at-heart ideologies almost serenely with A Noise Within's 12th anniversary offering of one of Shakespeare's most durable and beloved romantic comedies, Twelfth Night. Set designer Trefoni Michael Rizzi has created a beautifully simple, classic arena in which to tell the tale of shipwrecked twins Viola (Julia Coffey) and Sebastian (Kerby Joe Grubb) who, believing each other to have perished at sea, eventually find themselves entangled in an ever-escalating misadventure built on mistaken identity, practical jokes, and, of course, love.
Alex Jaeger's 19th century costume design enhances feminine and masculine sensibilities, as does Tabori's direction. The Countess Olivia (a luminous Tessa Thompson), adorned with flowers and subtle jewels, is all demure eyes, pouty lips, and elegantly clasped hands. She is the very epitome of innocent femininity, contrasted with Coffey's short-cropped hair, handsome male attire, and more straightforward demeanor in her disguise as Cesario. However, the transformation is merely a ploy in which to gain favor, and employment, with the youthful, roguish Duke Orsino (J. Todd Adams). Viola falls for Orsino, but he only has eyes for Olivia, who naturally becomes instantly smitten with Cesario.
The adults are also fair game. The terrific Robertson Dean has great fun as Olivia's drunken uncle, Sir Toby Belch, without ever going over the top. He is frequently led on by his more aged but still sprightly cohort, Sir Andrew Aguecheek (audience favorite Hamilton Camp). Inciting them to mischief is Olivia's gentlewoman, Maria (Cynthia Brooks), who instigates a devilish prank upon Olivia's stern steward, Malvolio (a comically dour-faced Alan Brooks) with unexpected results.
Tabori's more thoughtful approach to Shakespeare's classic comedy manages to retain the humor while imbuing the play with a sense of sophistication not usually associated with it. And it works. Laughter still sounds, romance still fills the air, and love still conquers all.
"Twelfth Night," presented by and at A Noise Within, 234 S. Brand Blvd., Glendale. Repertory schedule. Mar. 19-May 16. $20-40. (818) 240-0910, ext. 1.