BWW Review: Esperance's TWELFTH NIGHT Christmasifies the Access Theater
Tempests, tricks, and twin antics are told surprisingly well in an early 20th century Christmas party setting In Esperance Theater Company's inaugural production of Twelfth Night, solidifying the title's setting on the twelfth day of Christmas. Christmas spirit is alive from the moment you walk into the decked out gallery of The Access Theater and sample some christmas cookies and mulled wine amid the christmas trees. But what does that do for the telling of the actual story? Not much, but considering the frequency in which Twelfth Night is is told (I've seen 3 in the past year and a half) this irreverent layer along with Carl Howell and Christian Adam's Jacobs's jaunty score enhances what would have been just another straight up production of what has become a commercial reel for Shakespearean comedies.
We all know the story of a noble ingenue washing ashore after a shore (because it's Shakespeare) dresses up like a dude (Shakespeare) while a group of lowborn friends play a prank (Shakespeare). Luckily, Esperance's ensemble, clad in their party best by Lauren Wilcher, nails the text with polished deliverance and bom-diggity voice and speech work.
Jessica Frey leads the pack as Viola. She's plucky while also carrying the weight of her character's situation. Her and Katie Hartke (a similarly regal presence as Olivia) are sincere in their leading-lady roles. The comic heft is given to the men of Esperance who bring a Fiasco-esque lightness to their delivery. Director Ryan Quinn's casual delivery in his few scenes caused riotous laughter, as did Brian McManamon's big reveal as Malvolio (looking good, Brian!). It would have been nice to have had a woman in the lowly bunch though: Co-composer Howell played Maria with a light-femininity.
Based on the evening, the Esperance gang throw a lovely get together anchored by a top-notch classical performance. I'm looking forward to their next folksy collaboration- perhaps one of the bard's lesser performed titles?
Twelfth Night ran December 10-20th in the gallery of The Access Theater (380 Broadway). For more information, visit http://www.esperancetheatercompany.org/.