Ohio Shakespeare Festival opened its 2014 summer season with an entertaining "Twelfth Night" on July 4.

The comic romp, which is staged on the grounds of Stan Hywet Hall in Akron and directed by Terry Burgler, includes a stellar cast which artfully brings out every ounce of hilarity in The Bard's comedy, and in a way that even those not familiar with the play can follow and appreciate.

In the play, the duke Orsino (Anand Nagraj) is attempting to woo the countess Olivia (Lara Knox), without much success. Olivia is grieving the recent death of her brother and refuses the duke's overtures.

Meanwhile, a shipwreck separates twins Viola (Tess Burgler) and Sebastian (Kevin Glass), each who think the other is dead. Viola disguises herself as a man and finds employment in Orsino's court. Orsino presses the disguised Viola to go to Olivia with his messages of love. Complications arise when Olivia falls for Orsino's messenger.

The play also includes a hysterical side story, where Olivia's uncle Sir Toby Belch (Derrick Winger), the foppish Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Jason Leupold), Fabian (Mark Stoffer), Feste (Joe Pine) and Maria (Holly Humes) concoct a plan to humiliate the stiff and proper Malvolio (Geoff Knox). The biggest laughs in the play come from the plotting, and the results.

"I completely loved it," said Sammy Al-Doory of Akron. "I've been reading Shakespeare since 1978. I thought they did an excellent job. The acting was great, the fight scenes were excellent, it was well choreographed and well directed. The singing was great. It was very faithful to the text. There were no changes, no cuts and no translations into more modern language."

Ticket and show information

"Twelfth Night" can be seen through July 20.

Performances are Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights at 8 p.m. However, those attending should seriously consider coming at 7:30, to catch the company's Greenshow of songs, dances, swordfights and parodies, which are always a lot of fun. Stan Hywet's grounds open at 6 p.m. for picnicking.

Tickets are $30 for reserved seating (the first 100 seats in the center, closest to the stage), or $25 for festival (open) seating. Student tickets are $15, and further discounts on adult tickets are available for OSF, WKSU, and Stan Hywet Members. Reservations may be made any time through OSF's web site at www.ohioshakespeare.com, or by calling the box office at 330-673-8761 daily (except Mondays) from noon to 5 p.m.

Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens is at 714 N. Portage Path in Akron.

Up next

"Henry IV, Part One" will preview on July 31, open Aug. 1, and perform through Aug. 17.

Email: ahelms@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9438