Stage Raw: The Receptionist
Courtesy of Classical Theatre Lab
Director Armin Shimerman's genial, unevenly paced production of Shakespeare's romantic comedy boasts cross dressing as well as crossed garters. Nobleman Orsino (John D. Crawford) loves noblewoman Olivia (a nicely shrill Victoria Hoffman) but she only has eyes for Orsino's servant, who just happens to be the shipwrecked beauty Viola (Julie Alexander) in disguise. A complication (which can be traced all the way back to Plautus if you try) ensues when Viola's twin brother Sebastian (Michael Yurchak) arrives in the kingdom and is mistaken for his sister - er, brother. Shimerman's production is staged in a building courtyard in West Hollywood's Plummer Park, and the locale lends a playful, upbeat atmosphere. A few production elements border on being merely workmanlike, including some functional-at-best acting turns and bouts of stiff blocking that never tuck into the piece's humor. However, the show is punctuated with a few colorful gags - the foolish trio of Michael Matthys's boorish Sir Toby, Barry Saltzman's hilariously foppy Aguecheek, and Will Badgett's sourpuss Feste catawrualling love songs on Olivia's doorstep, for instance, or Stephen Moramarco's thoroughly prickly Malvolio attempting to woo his mistress, a hilariously uptight turn channeling what appears to be 100 generations of nightshift accountants. Although pacing problems inevitably slow some portions of the show, this is a fine, intimate introduction to this coruscating comedy, perhaps best for those not overly familiar with it. Classical Theatre Lab, Plummer Park, 7336 Santa Monica Blvd, West Hollywood; Sat.-Sun., 5 p.m.; through August 23. Free. (323) 960-5691. (Paul Birchall)
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