Review: TWELFTH NIGHT, OR WHAT YOU WILL at Burbage Theatre

By: Feb. 26, 2018
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Review: TWELFTH NIGHT, OR WHAT YOU WILL at Burbage Theatre

The Burbage Theatre continues its inaugural season in its new home at 249 Roosevelt Ave. in Pawtucket with a raucous production of Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIIGHT, OR WHAT YOU WILL. Harold Bloom has called TWELFTH NIGHT "the funniest of all Shakespeare's plays." While I'm not sure Bloom is a reliable guide to comedy, the mostly youthful Burbage cast has managed to fully mine the humor in this piece. "We're eager to bring (TWELFTH NIGHT) to life, and we've got the team to do it," said director Jeff Church, who is also Artistic Director at the Burbage.

So what works? First of all, Tom Gleadow, longtime member of the company at the Gamm Theater, as Sir Toby Belch got big laughs as he boozed and debauched his hour upon the stage. Gleadow has played Sir Toby before and he was absolutely fearless in the part. The ongoing gag of finding booze ingeniously hidden in the set worked every time, as did his interactions with Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Richard Whitehead), as did his interactions with his co-conspirators laying and enjoying traps for Dillon Medina's Malvolio.

Speaking of Malvolio, Median is a hoot in this part. (Full disclosure: We were friends when we worked together as tutors at the Rhode Island College Writing Center back in the day.) Medina manages to bring out the overbearing jerk in his character and somehow keep us laughing at him, and from developing sympathy for him no matter how much he's abused by the rest of the cast. He is the ant-Toby, a perfect foil.

Next, the show is also well staged in the round, and Andrew Iacovelli's set was as sparse as sparse could be until he managed to rearrange its components into a very clever jail cell for Malvolio. The production also had some pretty impressive lighting effects--disco and lightning.

Even the broadest comedy benefits from a tender heart, and Alison Russo's Viola mostly provides that. From the opening scene where she thinks she's lost her brother, through her unrequited love for Duke Orsino (Leo Castro, hey what's with the Spanish?), Russo manages to create genuine feeling for Viola. She is also funny in her scenes with Allison Crews's Oliva and funnier still in her swordfight with Sir Andrew. I have seen this young woman perform three times now, singing and dancing in Victor/Victoria, as a comic actor in The Importance of Being Earnest, and now in a mostly dramatic role here, and she has delivered each time.

This truly is an ensemble piece and would not have been nearly as good without strong performances from Whitehead, Ben Church as Feste, the Jester, Gabrielle McCauley as Fabian and Marc Mancini as Sebastien, Marrgaret Mallozi as Maria, and Helen Tafuri in a number of roles.

TWELFTH NIGHT runs until March 18th with Friday and Saturday performances at 8:00 and Sunday matinees at 2:00.Tickets are $25 for general admission, $15 for students, and $10 for Rhode island College students (this theater is rife with RIC grads) and can be bought online at or by calling the box office at 401 484 0355. The theater is wheelchair accessible with an accessible bathroom-well, it will be when they add two grab bars, which I have been told will happen this week. I think Church is right: they "have the team to do it."



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