The Huntington Theatre Company has brought us a careful production of Shakespeare's ''Twelfth Night,'' his oft-done comedy of mistaken identity and unrequited love.
While not daring, it is user-friendly Shakespeare. Director Thomas Gruenewald takes great pains to make the Bard's language and meanings clear, without being pedantic.
Many of the best scenes are with the rowdy lowlife and the fool; Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Gary Beach), Maria (Frances Cuka), and Sir Toby Belch (Jack Aranson) have an easy and rollicking grace. Elizabeth McGovern (of ''Ragtime'' and ''Ordinary People'' fame) plays Viola, the shipwreck survivor who, dressed as a page, woos a woman for her master, with whom she's fallen in love. It's a charming, understated performance; she's one of the most natural ''boys'' I've seen. She's not half as winsome as a girl, but that's mostly due to an awful hair style and gown.
The production, however, suffers from Gruenewald's fence-straddling. The comic and melancholic threads of the play are not unified, but seem to have developed separately. Consequently, the peremptory and virulently hateful Malvolio is almost too harsh for this gentle production. Through Dec. 23. 'Gigi'
''Gigi,'' playing through Sunday at the Colonial Theatre, is a disappointingly flat revival, without exuberance or euphoria. Louis Jourdan, in the part Maurice Chevalier made famous, is too young, and lacks the world-wise charm of his predecessor. Lisa Howard, while lovely as a transformed Gigi, forces giddy youthfulness in the early scenes. Tom Hewitt, however, is an appropriate heartthrob as Gaston, and Taina Elg as Mamita and Betsy Palmer as Aunt Alicia are fine. Sparkling 'Nutcracker'
For one who has watched the Boston Ballet's ''Nutcracker'' for years in a row , what stands out are the subtle changes from year to year, the new fillips that spring out of the basically consistent choreography.
Last year it was the gentle graciousness pervasive throughout the production which charmed me. This year it was the sparklers that broke through it - bits of feisty, inspired dancing: the white-bearded Dr. Drossel-meyer's energetic kicking up of his heels; the mouse who, when stabbed, rises up dramatically on point and does a funny, skittering dance before falling; Clara's lovely skipping run that covers the giant stage in bounds. While a few dances lacked final polish, there was an overall precision and a high spirit of friskiness that took this out of the stodginess that sometimes besets story ballets. Through Dec. 30.