Despite hot weather raging during the day, nights are becoming more pleasant. And what better way to spend an evening than to lounge in one of the world’s largest parks, taking in a show over a picnic? Shakespeare in the Park is a classic summer highlight and this year’s shows – two classic Shakespearian comedies, “Twelfth Night” and “Taming of the Shrew” – are no exception.
Independent Shakespeare Company, which has been doing their summer Shakespeare festival in L.A. since 2001, is back in the Old Zoo at Griffith Park for another season. Surrounded by the abandoned zoo enclosures, the remains of what once was the Griffith Park Zoo from 1912 to 1966 that housed a grand total of 15 animals, the stage is set in the secluded little alcove of a picnic and recreation area above the hustle and bustle of families enjoying the Mineral Wells area of Griffith Park.
“Twelfth Night,” or “What You Will,” was written by William Shakespeare in the early 1600s. It is a comedy of mistaken identities. It centers around Viola, a shipwrecked girl who conceals her identity and dresses as her twin brother who was lost in the shipwreck. Taking the name Cesario, she becomes servant to Duke Orsino of Illyria, with whom she falls in love.
Meanwhile, Olivia is the object of Orsino’s affection, and he sends “Cesario” to woo her with his silver-tongued speech. This backfires and Olivia becomes obsessed with Cesario instead. Mistaken identities are funny that way.
The show is funny and well performed, but the real star of the show is David Melville who stars as Feste, the fool. A classic character of comedy, Melville has taken Feste to the next level in a very memorable Shakespearean performance. He wears “The Contraption,” a one man band apparatus that, along with his banjolele, allows for full orchestration of the songs written in the text. Not only musical, “The Contraption” works as a hilarious sight gag for Feste and the rest of the cast. For those who say Shakespearean comedies don’t hold up in today’s culture, I challenge you to watch this play with a straight face. It can’t be done.
Playing four to five nights a week, it is free to attend but get there early – the good seats go fast. Make sure to take your picnic with you, and if you go to Glendale’s Whole Foods to stock up before the play, go to the front desk and say the code word “GriffithParkShakespeare” for a special Glendale tote bag, yours just for the asking.
Don’t miss out on “Twelfth Night,” and get ready for their next show, “Taming of the Shrew,” opening on July 24.