BWW Reviews: OLIVER TWIST Struggles to Connect
The adaptation of Oliver Twist performed by the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company was lacking in many ways. What needs to be said first is that the acting, lead by Sara Clark and Kelly Mengelkoch, was great but the overall production had some issues that hindered my ability to fully enjoy the show. The show was two acts but it almost felt like it was two different shows based on the tone of each act. There were weird background noises that were distracting and were so subtle that I thought is was either an audience member's cell phone ringing or a noise coming from outside the theater. There were also these bizarre pauses (only during the first act) where a character was hit with a spotlight and a violin played which seemed to have no legitimate purpose in the show. That only happened about 3 times but it, along with the other distractions, took me out of the experience of the show.
Act one felt like it was very long for just being 57 minutes while also having the feeling that each scene was rushed and ended abruptly. I found myself always behind in the plot; when a scene ended I was still comprehending what had just happened that I ended up being behind in the current scene. While the scene changes were done well and fluid with actors taking sets off stage or maneuvering them around on the stage, the scene changes happened so quickly after (sometimes while) actors finished the scene that is was very surprising. It's hard to say whether it was the way the actors handled the scene or the way the script was written that was the cause for these abrupt scene endings but with the acting being so great in the second act that it can be assumed it was probably the script.
This brings us to the second act which, like stated above, was almost like watching a different show because the act seemed too short and I wanted the scenes to be longeR. Kelly Mengelkoch as Nancy was a standout of this act; she brought emotion that was definitely lacking in the first act. Her journey was like being on a rollercoaster where I enjoyed every fall and loop that occurred. Sara Clark was also very strong throughout the entire show. They were the definite highlights but the cast as whole did great.
The acting itself was so strong that I am excited to see what this theater company can do when they do what they do best, Shakespeare. While this adaptation had some issues, it hasn't stopped me from wanting to see the rest of the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's season.
Oliver Twist is running until September 29, 2013 and is directed Michael Evan Haney.
Photo Credit: Rich Sofranko