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A CurtainUp Review
As you enter the theater, you can immediately see Crouch, as the steward Malvolio, his face twisted into an expression of fantastical wonder, with Olivia's supposed love letter in hand. Crouch is dressed in dirty long johns, raggedy yellow stockings, devil horns on his head, and turkey wattle fastened beneath his chin. At first blush, you might think Now, hell walks on earth. And yes, this would-be aristocrat looks like he has just climbed out of the eternal flames and is ready to have at you.
Crouch's I, Malvolio is hardly shy. Quicker than you can blink, he is buttonholing audience members and accusing them of indulging in all kinds of vice, ranging from drunkenness to lechery. And he's just as irritated by any hint of frivolous behaviors, whether its romancing, merry-making, or spending time at a theater.
As the show progresses, it soon becomes clear that this Malvolio takes sadomasochistic delight in badgering the audience. And, incredibly, he shows that he can persuade a pair of youngsters out of their orchestra seats and on to the stage for a grim prank, which turns out to be none other than his own suicide by hanging. But not to worry. Once Malvolio realizes that his two recruited youngsters have no clue about how to be hangmen, he straightaway aborts his plan and whisks the two back to their seats.
In the text of Twelfth Night, Malvolio has a total of 275 lines. But Crouchplays fast and loose with Shakespeare's language, and takes much poetic license in bringing his social climbing butler to life. He carves and recombines lines from the original tale and then freely embellishes it, creating his own riff for I, Malvolio. He emphasizes, time and again, the madness and revenge bristling beneath the steward's skin. And he comically points up the old cliché: Pride goes before a fall.
I, I, Malvolio is a serious little show that shakes out prudery, explores bullying, invites laughter, and sparks a greater understanding of the Bard. Its ideal audience is , between 12 and 92. In a program note, Crouch cites that he has performed a series of solo pieces (I, Caliban, I, Peaseblossom,, I, Banquo, I, Cinna) that take minor characters from a famous Shakespeare play, allowing them to have their say. Too bad he isn't bringing the entire series to New York..
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