As high school students in Timmins, Robert Persichini and I always had some in-joke on the go. Sometimes, they were rude, sometimes incomprehensible. I remember he would say "It's a leopard" like an old gypsy woman and I would dissolve in gales of laughter. Who knows what that even meant. Then a split second later he would do a perfect Beatrice Arthur impersonation and I'd be rolling on the floor. No one was funnier.
Now he's starring in Shakespeare in High Park, as Malvolio in Twelfth Night, and as the Fool in King Lear. Even as a teenager, he possessed an uncanny gift for acting. He dazzled all of Timmins in high school productions of My Fair Lady and Fiddler On the Roof. After graduation, he went to England to study the Bard, and judging from his remarkable work in Twelfth Night, it paid off.
As I watched director Tanya Jacobs' version of the show, I was reminded of a Stratford trip we took in grade twelve. One of the shows we saw that year was Twelfth Night, starring Brian Bedford. Robert and I giggled hysterically at the part where Malvolio reads a letter, commenting on the author's penmanship. "By my life, this is my lady's hand these be her very C's, her U's, and her T's," declares Malvolio. This, apparently, was Shakespeare's subtle way of saying 'cunt'. Now, Robert gets to deliver that very same speech three nights a week until September 5.
Of course there is so much else to Robert's performance that I enjoyed. His antics with a tape measure, for instance, or the way he brandishes those yellow socks. As for the show itself, it's just great. Trimmed to 100 minutes and presented without an intermission, the cast and the set are marvels to behold, and the whole enterprise is brisk and happy. Mosquitos be damned, I had a great time sitting in the park watching this gorgeous show. King Lear is probably not quite the laughfest that Twelfth Night is, but then again, with Robert in the role of the Fool, I'll bet there will be at least a few moments of mirth.
Twelfth Night continues in repertory with King Lear until Sun, Sept 3 at the High Park Ampitheatre, 1873 Bloor St W. canadianstage.com