The mere use to the word calls to mind the 1960s and ’70s in general and, in particular, one of the most familiar of the songs of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkle, a number that itself had a somewhat schizoid nature, sometimes being known as “Feelin’ Groovy” and, elsewhere, as “The 59th Street Bridge Song.”
Shakespeare himself wasn’t averse to doubly named plays, or at least to subtitles, since the complete name of the work at hand is “Twelfth Night, or What You Will.”
Directed by Corkonian Michael Whelan and sponsored by two Irish concerns, New York Flooring and Liffey Van Lines, the Owtava Hat group, made up in part of Irish and Irish-American performers, has invested Shakespeare’s bittersweet comedy dating from 1600, or perhaps 1601, with all the brio of playtime in a particularly bright and gifted nursery school.
A shipwreck in a circular kiddie pool approximately the size of a card table, embossed all around with images of leaping dolphins? Why not, if it serves the text and establishes Viola and her retinue as castaways, beached on a seacoast in Illyria?
The Owtava Hat production is housed in a slightly battered fourth-floor railroad flat on West 45th Street, now known as “Todo 45,” but earlier on the space where Aaron Beall and John Clancy conceived and planned the first International Fringe Festival some eight years ago. The seventh running of the increasingly successful event begins this year on Aug. 8 and runs through the 25th of the month.
Beall?s participation in “Twelfth Groovy Night” is as what he calls “presenter” since he controls the space and may or may not play host to future Owtava Hat Ensemble productions, including their next show, “Much Ado About Nothing,” provided, of course, that the electrically energetic young group survives the considerable rigors of getting its current offering up and running.
The term “electrically energetic” applies with particular aptness, since, during the first public performance of “Twelfth Groovy Night,” the theater?s fuses blew twice, briefly plunging the chirpy production, and its hard-charging 12-actor cast, into semi-darkness, a situation that fazed the company not in the least.
Director Whelan?s swiftly paced, neatly calibrated handling of the Shakespearean text puts his cohort of mostly young, mainly appealing performers in clothing ranging from evening wear to rehearsal gear, giving the general impression of a gaggle of tots let loose amongst the costume trunks in the moldering attic of a 19th century touring company.