BWW Review: TWELFTH NIGHT at Shakespeare & Company Takes A Refreshingly Unique Approach To A Centuries Old Classic
TWELFTH NIGHT is a comedy by William Shakespeare that dates back to the early 1600s. The play was written as a Twelfth Night's entertainment for the close of the Christmas season and thus the title. Twins Viola and Sebastian are separated in a shipwreck. Aided by a sea captain and thinking she is left alone in the world, Viola disguises herself as Cesario in order to enter into service to Duke Orsino, whom she promptly falls in love with. Thing is, Orsino is in love with Countess Olivia. Olivia is mourning the recent death of her father and brother. As a result, she is reclusive and interacts only with those in her inner circle that include her Uncle, Sir Toby Belch; squire, Sir Andrew Aquechee; her handmaiden, Marie, steward, Malvolio, and the fool, Feste. Orsino sends Cesario (Viola in disguise) as his representative to visit Olivia and profess his love for Olivia and yada, yada, yada... Olvia falls for Cesario.
As the sordid affairs of the love triangle play out, so too does a comedic subplot wherein Sir Toby, Sir Andrew, Marie and Feste conspire against the most pompous Malvolio convincing him that Olivia is in love with him. An entertaining and humorous series of events ensues.
Shakespeare & Company Artistic director, Allyn Burrows, who has previously acted in three different productions of TWELFTH NIGHT, directs this production that has been set in a 1959 dance hall at a boardwalk. The costuming designed by Govane Lohbauer is sharp, handsome and transports us to the jazz era. The performance opens and closes with well executed dance numbers set to a '50s beat that entertains as well as relaxes the audience for the twisty ride about to unfold. It does so using the full space of theatre with entrances and exits from every possible angle, nook, and cranny that serves to keep the audience attentive, engaged and involved.
The entire cast proves themselves to be extremely adept delivering long complicated dialogue that remains true to the old English. Not with trite overdone accents but with polished voices and presentation that helps to make each unique, authentic, and engaging. Although the language can be challenging at times, the actors use of body language and near flawless diction helps greatly. Their musicality is both noteworthy and impressive.
The well-balanced cast features Shakespeare & Company veterans Martin Jason Asprey (Antonio/Sea Captain), Steven Barkhimer (Sir Toby Belch), Gregory Boover (Feste), Nigel Gore (Andrew Aguecheek), Deaon Griffin-Pressley (Sebastian), Cloteal L. Horne (Olivia), Ella Loudon (Viola), and Bella Merlin (Maria). The Company also welcomes two newcomers Miles Anderson (Malvolio), and Bryce Michael Wood (Duke Orsino). Anderson handles some particularly challenging scenes so well, he earned spontaneous applause multiple times.
The creative team includes Ariel Bock (Voice Coach), Susan Dibble (Movement Director), Cristina Todesco (Set Designer), Govane Lohbauer (Costume Designer), Deb Sullivan (Lighting Designer), Arshan Gailus (Sound Designer and Composer), and Gregory Boover (Music Director).
TWELFTH NIGHT is a fast-paced farce that for some may occasionally edge a tad over the top, but it is well designed, well staged and very well presented. And, let's just say that all's well that ends well. Pun most definitely intended.
Performances continue through August 4th with tickets available online at www.shakespeare.org or by calling Shakespeare & Company's box office at (413) 637-3353. The Tina Packer Playhouse is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. Shakespeare & Company is located at 70 Kemble St. in Lenox, Massachusetts. TWELFTH NIGHT is generously sponsored by Dr. Donald and Phoebe L. Giddon