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Yard Bard: Shakespeare in micro-doses or in full

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DOZEN (From left) Glen Havlan, as Sir Toby Belch, and Steve Beecroft, as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, conviviate in Curtain Theatre’s comedic ‘Twelfth Night.’

For theater lovers who prefer their Shakespeare “al fresco”—or for those who are still hesitant about venturing inside—two North Bay companies are presenting free outdoor productions of Bard-centric plays. They are adhering to all city, county and state Covid protocols, and the casts and crews are fully vaccinated.

Mill Valley’s Curtain Theatre returns with Shakespeare’s comedic Twelfth Night, while Healdsburg’s Raven Players presents every Shakespeare play known to man via The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).

Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s most-produced plays. It contains all the familiar Shakespeare elements—shipwrecks, separated twins, gender-switched impersonations, trickery, unrequited love and sword fights—that, when delivered with gusto, usually make for raucous comedy.

Not this time. Aside from casting two actors (Isabelle Grimm, Nic Moore) as twins who actually appear as if they could be, I find Michele Delattre’s directorial choices somewhat confounding. The cast—many who’ve proven their comedic abilities in previous productions—never seem to get out of first gear. Nelson Brown’s Orsino is more flat-footed than head-over-heels in love with Olivia (Faryn Thomure.) Glenn Havlan’s Sir Toby Belch plays like he just came out of a 12-step program. Grey Wolf’s Malvolio is more milquetoast than malevolent. Energy and passion are woefully missing, and the pacing for everything just seems off.

The production does have its charms, but not nearly as many as it should.

Steven David Martin directs Nicholas Augusta, Matt Farrell and Katie Watts-Whitaker in The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged). The premise is simple: three actors compress Shakespeare’s 37 plays down to about two hours—including an intermission.

The show is pure goofiness. It’s silly, crass, mildly adult and occasionally gory—I saw a younger member of the audience dive under a blanket during the Titus Andronicus-as-a-Julia Child-type-cooking-show segment. Mixed in with the butchering of the traditional dialogue are topical references, improvisation and audience participation. The cast works hard to earn their audience’s laughter, which they did at the Sunday evening performance I attended.

Pack a picnic, dress in layers and bring a blanket. Old Mill Park by day, and Healdsburg by night, can get mighty chilly.

“Twelfth Night” runs Saturday–Sunday through Sept. 5 with a special Monday, Sept. 6 (Labor Day) performance at the Old Mill Park Amphitheater, 352 Throckmorton Ave., Mill Valley. All shows 2pm. Free. curtaintheatre.org“The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” runs through Aug. 29 at West Plaza Park, 10 North St., Healdsburg. Thursday–Saturday, 7:30 pm. Free. 707.433.6335. raventheater.org