TWELFTH Night" is a Shakespearean comedy (with music) that lends itself to elaboration, and Center Stage is doing that, with excellent results.
The comedy, if you are unfamiliar with it, is a tale of mistaken identities, one in which Viola, disguised as a boy, falls in love with Orsino, who loves Olivia, who loves Viola, not knowing the boy she loves is really a girl.
Viola's twin brother, thought dead, reappears and is mistaken for Viola. Mix-up follows mix-up until all this business is settled at curtain.
The evening is longer than it needs to be. (But not longer than it can be. Blame that on Shakespeare.) While the first act of the Center Stage production plies ahead with good humor and great style, the second is brought down, or at least slowed, by the business with Malvolio, steward to Olivia.
Malvolio, played by J. Michael Flynn, is a prig, and when he irritates some of the other characters, they humiliate him by sending him a letter allegedly written by Olivia. It was not. It is a trick, and the people responsible for this prank see it through, debasing the hapless Malvolio, who hardly deserves this kind of treatment.
Well, if he does, we don't. All this business might be excised with no damage to the evening. The elimination, in fact, would help it.
The production, elsewhere, is a pleasure, one in which director Irene Lewis has one character, knight Sir Andrew (portrayed by William Youmans), wear a blazer and tennis shoes. Later, Liann Pattison, as Olivia, wears a wedding dress that would add to Madonna's wardrobe, and at another point, Pattison wears an evening gown that would pass muster today in just about any place.
Lewis also has some of the characters do a song that brings the '50s to mind. And when some of the actors are ready for swordplay, they behave and sound like combatants in a karate movie, one made in Hong Kong. When she goes from girl to boy, Mia Korf as Viola does a little break dancing with just a -- of Michael Jackson.
Best of all this silliness, however, is the business contributed by Robert Dorfman, as Feste, the jester. As Dorfman plays him, Feste is, at times, a club comic who tells jokes, some of them awful, some of them bright. Sometimes he uses a mike, but then so does Korf, when she poses as a boy.
''Twelfth Night'' will remain at Center Stage's Pearlstone Theater through May 12.
"Twelfth Night" *** Shakespeare's comedy about mistaken identities.
CAST: Clayton LeBouef, David Whalen, Mia Korf, Steve Irish, Kenneth Gray, Libby George, William Youmans, Robert Dorfman, Liann Pattison, J. Michael Flynn, Mark Wilson, Thom Sesma, Rene Moreno
DIRECTOR: Irene Lewis
L RUNNING TIME: Two hours and 45 minutes with one intermission