The venerable Frog and Peach Theatre Company held another star- studded reading down at the beautiful Players Club on Gramercy Park South. This time, it was a rollicking Twelfth Night featuring comedian and Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm’s foul-mouthed regular Susie Essman as a deliciously nasty “Maria,” stalwart Len Cariou as the wronged Malvolio, Maulik Pancholy of 30 Rock fame as Sebastian, Darrell Hammond-who I have seen in every Frog and Peach reading-deliciously chewing it up as the fool “Feste,” Scott Adsit (another 30 Rock alum as well as too many credits to name here) as a fantastically spry and hilarious “Sir Andrew” cutting it up with equally fantastic Frog and Peach regular Jonathan Marballi as “Sir Toby” and two of F&P’s perfect ladies of Bard-ium Kaitlin Large as a presence-to-be-reckoned-with “Olivia” and the always beguiling Amy Frances Quint as “Viola.” As has been the case for all the Frog and Peachery I have been present for, rock legend Ian McDonald played piano and guitar to the proceedings, providing instrumentation as well for original songs written by another Frog and Peach co founder, Ted Zurkowski.
What with its case of hidden identities, switched gender roles and a big could-be-confusing reveal at the end of this comedy, what Lynnea Benson managed in her subtle direction-even in just a reading, made Twelfth Night completely clear, enjoyable and a hoot from beginning to end.
Frog and Peach consistently accomplishes their goal to bring modern audiences all the excitement, layered intrigue and yes, at times, even the sexy goodness of Shakespeare’s plays. Serving the public at large as well as adhering to their commitment to present their main stage productions to ‘under-served’ schools in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx, as I have opined often about this company, there is no one producing Shakespeare better in NYC presently.
Check out Frog and Peach’s Hamlet (staged as a Scandinavian Detective Thriller), running from 10/17-11/10, at: www.frogandpeachtheatre.org.