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"Twelfth Night"

By Lawrence Lader

The life of all theatre producers must be haunted by the vision of fitting the perfect play to the perfect cast as easily as Connle Mack could once call on Grove and Cochrane for his battery. Somehow the Theatre Guild has caught its vision by the shirt tails. William Shakespeare is the author, "Twelfth Night" the play; and Miss Helen Heyes and Mr. Maurice Evans are the principals. If Boston continues to leave empty seats in the "pit," as it did on opening night, it has surely passed its "Indian Summer" of appreciativeness and has come to a barren autumn.

Perhaps the most striking fact, besides its stars, is the choice of the play, which admirers of Mr. Evans' more oratorical hours may consider beneath him. But "Twelfth Night" has a breadth not often demonstrated in such a clear light. Into each circle of society-from the clowning Maria and Toby Belch; to the peacock Malvolio, as much a clown on a higher plane; to Orsino, Viola and Olivia, made fools of by love in their own right-Shakespeare has pried good humoredly. But when the smoke of his amazingly complicated plot has cleared, it is nothing but "a whirligig of time." You are left singing "hey, nonny, nonny."

And it is this note of fantasy, so clearly evident at the end of the play, that Miss Hayes and Mr. Evans have carried into almost every scene. Their interpretation is as light as the music which Paul Bowles employs so delightfully. Outside of a few "heavy" scenes, the characters almost run on air. And even in the revels of Aguecheck and Belch, which might easily turn gross, there is the same feel of fantasy.

Down to the last detail of posture and strut, Miss Hayes would have pleased even Shakespeare. Perhaps he might have thought her occasionally too gentle for some rougher moments, but then the audience, too, refused to roar in the old Elizabethan abandon at some of his slickest puns and sexy jokes. Malvolio, the perfect fop from curtain to curtain, is a much narrower part than Viola's. But every opportunity for satire, characterization and even, in spots, sincere drama, is exploited by Maurice Evans so completely that we are fortunate the part is in the hands of the "master."

To carry a final coal to Newcastle, the supporting cast with Wesley Addy, Mark Smith and June Walker rounds out the complete whole. Despite its two stars the brilliance of "Twelfth Night" lies in its balance. From Margaret Webster's direction and Stewart Chaney's sets down to the last jigging dance, not a jog is amiss.

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