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Broadway Blogs - Twelfth Night: What!?! You Will????? and More...

Below are's blogs from Monday, June 29, 2009. Catch up below on anything that you might have missed from's bloggers!

Twelfth Night: What!?! You Will?????
by Michael Dale - June 29, 2009

The entirety of The Public Theater's positively scrumptious new Shakespeare in the Park production of Twelfth Night is played on and around designer John Lee Beatty's grassy field, which is dominated by two large hills.  It's the kind of setting that might remind you of dozens of locales in Central Park where brave little tykes might scurry down the steep inclines or where lusty couples might settle down for a quick afternoon make-out session or where a toddler's parent might amuse his kid by popping his head out from behind the soft green hiding place.   It's a playground and director Daniel Sullivan - who incorporates all the above in his lighthearted staging - seems to have encouraged his delightful company to play, making an all-star cast of theatre pros (joined by a movie star ringer with legit experience) charm like a summer stock company showing off their youthful enthusiasm.

Twelfth Night certainly works if played darker than the Delecorte's current entertainment, if simply for the fact that, if we go strictly by Shakespeare's words, the play ends with its most selfless and heroic character facing the rest of his life in prison.  Grief for loved ones and unrequited passion also figure in heavily, not to mention the opportunity to explore erotic possibilities as its cross-dressing central female character must hide her gender from both the man she's smitten with and the woman she's accidentally attracted.

But such approaches can be reserved for indoor autumnal settings.  The only darkness here is supplied by Raul Esparza, whose hilarious portrayal of the lovesick Orsino, Duke of Illyria, plays like a satire of the aloof, tension-filled performances New York audiences have grown accustomed to seeing from him.

Through the work of costume designer Jane Greenwood and wig designer Tom Watson, Illyria is beautifully filled with late 18th Century European elegance, a fashion well-suited to disguising the shipwrecked Viola (Anne Hathaway) as young boy.  A stranger in Illyria, and mourning the loss of her twin brother Sebastian (Stark Sands), who she believes drowned in a violent storm, Viola avoids the dangers of traveling alone as a woman by assuming the role of a young lad named Cesario and gets hired by the Duke to help him woo the Countess Olivia (Audra McDonald).  Hathaway's tender affections for the romantically afflicted Orsino, combined with her chipper earnestness while disguised as Cesario, gives the production firm grounding for the inspired lunacy that surrounds her; the most triumphant of which is McDonald's transformation from a grim, sorrowful woman who is also mourning the loss of her brother to a giddy coquettish lover whose lustful urges have been awakened by the young Cesario.  Of course, when it turns out that Sebastian is indeed alive and well and wandering about Illyria, Shakespeare is not above recycling some of the gags and plot twists that worked so well in The Comedy of Errors.

Twelfth Night's subplot, which figures just about as prominently as the main one, is also stocked with exceptional performances.  Jay O. Sanders, an old pro at playing boisterously fun drunkards, and the verbally biting Julie White are terrific as Olivia's uncle, Sir Toby Belch and his lusty companion, his niece's gentlewoman, Maria.  In an outlandish comic turn, Hamish Linklater sports long blonde tresses and a loopy Valley Boy accent as Olivia's would-be suitor, the thickheaded Sir Andrew Aguecheek, stumbling down hills and blurting out lines with crowd-pleasing humor.  As the dour Malvolio, who falls victim to a revengeful prank, Michael Cumpsty is a model of Dickensian smugness, getting broad laughs by playing straight.

The Celtic folk ensemble HEM supplies the hearty musical sound of Illyria, and while there are many fine voices among the company, the featured singer is David Pittu, whose wonderful turn as Feste has him playing Olivia's clown with the wry, underplayed wit of a contemporary political commentator.  Smaller roles such as Sands' Sebastian and Jon Patrick Walker's Fabian are well played; with special mention to Charles Borland, who gives a firm, commanding appeal to Antonio, the sea captain who rescues Sebastian and risks his life to see to his safety.

Clocking in at over three hours, every minute of this Twelfth Night is pure theatrical delight and a hell of a good time.

Photos by Joan Marcus:  Top:  Raul Esparza and Anne Hathaway, Bottom:  Audra McDonald, Michael Cumpsty and company

Broadway Grosses: Week Ending 6/28 & Algonquin Round Table Quote of the Week
by Michael Dale - June 29, 2009

"As only New Yorkers know, if you can get through the twilight, you'll live through the night."
--Dorothy Parker


The grosses are out for the week ending 6/28/2009 and we've got them all right here in's grosses section.

Up for the week was: AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (24.7%), IRENA'S VOW (17.6%), THE PHILANTHROPIST (12.3%), AVENUE Q (11.8%), ACCENT ON YOUTH (9.1%), IN THE HEIGHTS (5.9%), THE 39 STEPS (4.4%), SHREK THE MUSICAL (2.3%), SOUTH PACIFIC (1.8%), MARY STUART (1.8%), NEXT TO NORMAL (1.7%), ROCK OF AGES (1.5%), MAMMA MIA! (0.8%), WAITING FOR GODOT (0.6%), WEST SIDE STORY (0.3%), HAIR (0.2%), 9 TO 5 (0.2%),

Down for the week was: THE NORMAN CONQUESTS (-11.8%), MARY POPPINS (-8.0%), THE LION KING (-4.4%), THE LITTLE MERMAID (-1.4%), CHICAGO (-0.8%), THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (-0.5%), GOD OF CARNAGE (-0.3%), BLITHE SPIRIT (-0.1%), JERSEY BOYS (-0.1%),

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