I don't know if it's the night air, the happy, relaxed audiences, or a touch of midsummer lunacy, but something about outdoor performances of Shakespeare brings out the best in actors. Witness Shakespeare on the Green's production of Twelfth Night, performed on the front lawn of Barat College. I've always considered this play one of the Bard's weaker efforts, hobbled as it is by a loose, slow, rather aimless main plot, a frankly silly comic subplot, several unbelievable coincidences, and to top it off, a pair of sticks-in-the-mud at the center--the depressive Duke Orsino and the passive-aggressive Countess Olivia. Yet in this production, performed alfresco by an inspired, energetic non-Equity cast, every quip works, every act of outrageous fortune seems credible, and every comic character is hilarious--even that annoying comedy team of Toby Belch and his foppish friend Andrew Aguecheek. Even more surprising, this production successfully veers from comedy to romance and back, allowing us to weep one minute for Orsino's unrequited love, laugh the next at Malvolio for the same, and weep again--happily this time--when Orsina finds at long last love. Barat College, front lawn, 700 E. Westleigh, Lake Forest, 708-295-2620. Through July 31: Fridays-Sundays, 8 PM. Free.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Roger Lewin-Jennifer Girard Studio.

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