BWW Reviews: Theater at Monmouth Stages Youthful TWELFTH NIGHT
Maine's Shakespeare Theater at Monmouth staged a vigorous, youthful adaptation of Shakespeare's "joyous comedy," Twelfth Night, this weekend at the historic Cumston Hall. The production will tour communities and schools in Maine as a apart of an NEA grant.
The ninety-minute adaptation by company member James Noel Hoban trims almost an hour from Shakespeare's five-act comedy about mistaken identity, mischief, mayhem, and the foibles of love. The resulting play, which cuts some dialogue and a few secondary characters, focuses on the fast-paced plot and barrels along with a breathtaking speed that emphasizes the work's roots in the Commedia dell'arte (as well as Plautus). Actors romp through exits and entrances in boisterous, revolving door fashion, playing their parts as much for the physical comedy as for the poetry - (and, indeed, sometimes the pace hampers the verse delivery).
Hoban, who also directs, chooses to set Illyria at a contemporary, preppy university. He adds a satiric rock music opening, which then oddly disappears as a later metaphor, though he uses the fool as a minstrel - and not the traditional Elizabethan one - throughout. At times the comedy is painted in such broad strokes that the Shakespearean balance of high and low humor is threatened. But, overall, the energy and vitality of the youthful performers manages to shine.
The company of young professionals brings a joyous verve to the piece. April Singley is a gentle, winsome Viola, whose soft-spoken sincerity makes a lovely counterpoint to the more extroverted characters. Rylie Doiron is a regal, tart and tender Olivia; her delivery of the verse has a pleasant naturalness that is occasionally marred by a too rapid throw away of lines. Heather Irish is a somewhat overly effervescent Maria, though she makes an authoritative Antonia. Elise Voigt manages the deadpan irony of the clown Feste well, though she sometimes misses the poignant wit of Shakespeare's fools.
Alex Pagels is a rambunctious Sir Toby Belch. Teddy Spencer makes a dignified, mournful Duke Orsino, and he demonstrates a genuine flair for the verse. Ian Kramer succeeds in playing the virtuoso contrast of the zany, doltish Sir Andrew and the sweet, boyish Sebastian. His Sir Andrew is a trifle over the top, but his Sebastian has a classy charm.
As Malvolio, one of the most intriguing of Shakespeare's characters, Max Waszak has some fine moments such as the yellow garter scene, and he communicates the steward's pompous egoism effectively, though he never rises to the level of subliminAl Anger and sour ambition that memorable Malvolios do.
Stacey Koloski's set design, consisting of two bookcase flats, a curtained archway, and several benches on a thrust stage, is attractive and functional; its minimalism complements TAM's ornate gilt auditorium, yet is appropriately portable. Jim Alexander's lighting design has a warm, friendly, unintrusive ambiance. Jonna Klaiber's contemporary costumes are, for the most part, inventive and evocative of character, though the Viola-Sebastian uniforms reminiscent of hotel bellmen are a bit jarring. The perfect acoustic of Cumston Hall delightfully allows for the absence of amplification - a treat these days in theatre performances!
As one of the forty National Theatre companies chosen to participate in this outreach initiative, TAM continues to serve as an enthusiastic ambassador for the Bard. Maine is fortunate to have this artistic resource in our midst.
The Theater at Monmouth, 796 Main Street, Monmouth, ME. Twelfth Night tours until November 2, 2013. The season resumes in the spring 2014. For information www.theateratmonmouth.org.
Photos Courtesy of Theater at Monmouth