Angelica Potter, Contributing Critic - New England
Walking into the theater the richly colored set, designed by Cristina Todesco, instantly brought the audience into a more modern Illyria than one they may have seen before. While this seemed to surprise some audience members, knowing this production was set in a seaside boardwalk dance hall in 1959, I was looking forward to a lively, humorous, and music-filled performance. Under the direction of Company Artistic Director Allyn Burrows this cast of ten talented actors delivered!
After a shipwreck, Viola finds herself on the shores of Illyria, devastated by the loss of her brother Sebastian. Disguised as a boy she finds comfort in the service of Duke Orsino. The Duke is in love with Lady Olivia and sends his new servant to her to try and gain her affections. Lady Olivia, rather than falling for the Duke becomes enamored with his servant, the disguised Viola. While this may seem like a very dramatic story, hilarity comes by way of Oliva's uncle Sir Toby and his band of musical pranksters who turn the house upside down and traumatize Olivia's steward Malvolio.
This story is one of loss, longing and love all tied together with the merriment that comes from a classic William Shakespeare comedy. While poetry and humor are the bare bones of this play, this production adds a significant amount of music, both recorded and live classics from the 1950s as well as original pieces, which amplify and accentuate the written work. Sound designer and original music composer Arshan Gailus did an incredible job blending Rock n' Roll, Motown and Jazz classics with new original tunes throughout this production. Superbly performed by Music Director Gregory Boover and the rest of the cast, the music wonderfully increased the audience's amusement and kept the story moving right along.
The cast features returning company favorites Martin Jason Asprey (Antonio/Sea Captain), Steven Barkhimer (Sir Toby Belch), Gregory Boover (Feste), Nigel Gore (Sir Andrew Aguecheek), Deaon Griffin-Pressley (Sebastian), Cloteal L. Horne (Olivia), Ella Loudon (Viola), and Maria (Bella Merlin), and newcomers Miles Anderson (Malvolio) and Bryce Michael Wood (Orsino). Having seen many of these actors before, I knew their acting, comedic and musical chops would delight the audience. Miles Anderson, who spent years with the Royal Shakespeare Company, fit right in with company regulars. In showcasing his fantastic comedic timing as Malvolio, he quickly became an audience favorite and even gained their sympathy after he was put through the ringer by Sir Toby, Feste, Sir Andrew and Maria.
The production runs 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 15 minute intermission.
"Twelfth Night or What You Will" plays in the Tina Packer Playhouse through August 4th. Shakespeare and Company is located at 70 Kemble St. in Lenox, Massachusetts.
Tickets and more information can be found at www.shakespeare.org.
For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: http://intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com/