Review: TWELFTH NIGHT (OR WHAT YOU WILL) at Attleboro Community Theatre

Shakespeare's comedy runs through June 16th

By: Jun. 06, 2024
Review: TWELFTH NIGHT (OR WHAT YOU WILL) at Attleboro Community Theatre
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Attleboro Community Theatre (ACT) brings its 66th season to a close with an amusing, highly entertaining production ‘Twelfth Night (Or What You Will),’ William Shakespeare’s boisterous comedy of mistaken identity, entangled romance, and unapologetic tomfoolery.

Whether you’re a Shakespeare enthusiast or a vehement detractor, ‘Twelfth Night’ is an example of his work that offers something for everyone, and even if you are still put off by the language, the physical comedy, voice inflection, and conspicuous expressions demonstrated by the performers make this fanciful ACT production accessible and enjoyable for all audiences.

This titillating tale begins when Viola (Nicolina “Nikki” Akraboff) is shipwrecked and separated from her twin brother, Sebastian (Abbie Levinson), presumed to have drowned. Soon thereafter, she arrives at the court of Duke Orsino (Jacqueline Sophia), disguised as a man, Cesario. Orsino is in love with Countess Olivia (Emily Rizza), who is mourning the loss of her brother and refusing any man’s attention. The Duke sends Cesario to woo Olivia on his behalf, but Olivia is quite taken with Cesario instead. Meanwhile, Viola develops a fondness for the Duke.

It's completely understandable if you’re confused, per Shakespeare’s intentions, but that’s precisely what makes this farce so much fun. If that wasn’t complicated enough, Olivia’s irresponsible uncle, Sir Toby (Alex Panagopoulos), conspires with his equally unruly sidekick, Sir Andrew (JC Wallace), and servants Maria (Ruthie Withers) and Fabian (Marissa Simas), to convince Olivia’s condescending steward, Malvolio (Michael Pugliese), that the Countess is in love with him. Furthermore, a very much alive Sebastian returns, and there all along to remind us of the ensuing calamity, both in spirit and in song, is the resident fool, Feste (Melanie Carrazzo).

Jay Burns handily directs this cast of maladjusted misfits, paying close attention to the source material and presenting the intertwining subplots swiftly and precisely while enabling the actors to shine. The stage interplay is nicely accompanied by Joey Kayan’s pleasant musical interludes, and the courtyard-inspired set (designed by Burns and Tammy England) is simple and stylish.

The entire ensemble does justice to the Bard’s words, with select performances that truly triumph. Akraboff doubly delivers a masterful performance as Viola/Cesario, presenting as calm and crazed when warranted, and Levinson is equally poised as Sebastian.

Rizza’s Olivia is a fitting combination of grace and gumption, and Sophia’s stoic portrayal of Orsino is commanding yet eloquent. Withers is delightfully cagey as Maria, Wallace is a hoot as Sir Andrew, and Anthony Medeiros gives an understated, impressive performance as the captain who befriends Sebastian, Antonio. Also worthy of honorable mention is Carrazzo, who plays the fool, Feste, with an angelic, melodic disposition.

Pugliese steals every scene and arguably the entire show as the maligned Malvolio. While the character's behavior provides plenty of laughs, his predicament is unfortunate and desperate, and Pugliese's enthusiasm dutifully conveys comedy and tragedy—no easy feat for an actor.

“Twelfth Night” at ACT reminds theatergoers that Shakespeare’s comedies, while inherently fun and absurd, are also clever, symbolic, and introspective.

“Twelfth Night (Or What You Will)” runs through June 16th at Attleboro Community Theatre, 71 North Main Street in Attleboro, MA. For tickets and information, call 508-226-8100 or visit

Photo by Dave Cantelli @photox_dc


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