Park Slope

Hark! Mark your calendars for ‘Twelfth Night’ at the Old Stone House in Park Slope

July 25, 2016 By Lore Croghan Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Heather Kelley (left) plays Viola in South Brooklyn Shakespeare's production of  “Twelfth Night.” Lisha Nadkarni plays a servant. Photos by Justin Bereman
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If music be the food of love, play on.

That’s the opening line of “Twelfth Night, or What You Will,” as Shakespeare-savvy readers know.

South Brooklyn Shakespeare brought a free, al fresco production of the Bard’s beloved comedy to Park Slope’s Fifth Avenue in 96-degree weather.

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It was worth braving a heat wave.

The Saturday, July 23 performance was staged on the blacktop — which mercifully was shaded from early-evening sunlight by shadows from the surrounding buildings — in front of South, a bar near the corner of 18th Street.

South’s owners, Paul Molnar and Dee Byrd-Molnar, are the founders of the theater group, which is a 501(c)3 nonprofit and does educational outreach programs at Sunset Park Prep, a public middle school.

Molnar co-directed the play and played the role of Orsino, Duke of Illyria. Byrd-Molnar co-directed and played Maria, who is Countess Olivia’s lady-in-waiting. Both did superb work.

“Twelfth Night” was performed during one of the Park Slope Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District’s Summer Strolls. A multi-block stretch of the avenue was closed to vehicular traffic for entertainment and kid-friendly activities.

If you missed the play, mark your calendars for Aug. 4, 5 and 6, when it will be performed outside Park Slope’s Old Stone House on 3rd Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues.

Crazy little thing called love

“Twelfth Night” is one of Shakespeare’s so-called “golden comedies,” a work of his mature years, by turns rollicking and poignant.

Twins separated by shipwreck turn the play into a comedy of errors.

Complicated errors — because they’re fraternal twins. And when Viola (played by Heather Kelley, who does a splendid job) dresses as a man and calls herself Cesario so she can serve the Duke, she really, really looks like her brother Sebastian (played with charm by Kevin Stanfa).

The Duke deploys much younger Viola/Cesario to deliver messages of love to Olivia (played with a deft comic touch by Alix McEachern Jones), who has long spurned the Duke.

Why oh why do older guys send young, handsome men to woo in their stead?

In five seconds flat, Olivia’s smitten with Viola/Cesario, who’s smitten with the Duke. Oy vey.

All hail Malvolio

Lord, what fools these mortals be (to borrow a line from Puck in “Midsummer Night’s Dream”) when it comes to love, real or imagined.

You almost feel sorry for Malvolio, Olivia’s pompous steward, who makes a huge fool of himself when he’s tricked into thinking Olivia is enamored of him.

Except you know that Malvolio (played by John Bergdahl, who was very, very funny) deserves to be taken down a peg.

He’s the prissy Puritan who’s on the receiving end of a famous retort by lovable drunk Sir Toby Belch (played just right by Brad Fryman): “Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?”

Arthur Aulisi in the role of Sir Andrew Aguecheek was also very funny.

He used his long limbs like a human Gumby — and got laughs simply by taking great gulping breaths and falling silent when trying to think of something witty to say.

Also, a round of applause is in order for Bethany Weise as Feste, a wise, wistful clown. At the play’s end, she sings a touching rendition of “The rain it raineth every day,” one of the best-known songs in Shakespeare’s plays.

By the way, the title “Twelfth Night” would have given Elizabethan audiences a hint of what to expect from the play.

On Twelfth Night, which took place on Jan. 5, the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany, the Queen and the nobility dressed up as peasants and vice-versa. Men dressed as women and servants as masters.   

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