Twelfth Night: Foolish Games of Greatness

James Andreassi (Sir Toby), Steven Barkhimer (Feste) & Doug Lockwood (Sir Andrew). Photo by Stratton McCrady

 

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare, Actors’ Shakespeare Project, Plaza Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, 9/27/11-10/22/11,  http://www.actorsshakespeareproject.org/season8/twelfth_night.html.

Reviewed by Becca Kidwell

(Boston, MA) With the help of the magical playground designed by Christina Todesco, Actors’ Shakespeare Project creates an entertaining evening of romance and folly.  The production touches the joy and pain of being.  And a fool shall lead them all…

Upon entering the theatre, the audience immediately encounters an abstract tempest upon a spacious performance area.  Something that seems to be a trademark of Christine Todesco’s designs, there is a ramp that ends up being used as a slide.  In addition, the columns on stage provide reflective surfaces for the characters to get lost in their own self-interest as imagined by the director, Melia Bensussen.

Marianna Bassham is the shattered and yet strong Viola.  Trying to do more than simply survive, Bassham displays Viola’s torment between wanting and being wanted.  Her innocence and composed nature provide an insider perspective for the journey through Illyria.  Her counterpart Sebastian, played by Jesse Hinson, is much more clueless which works well with the confusion of his arrival.

Steven Barkhimer as Feste, Marianna Bassham as Viola, photo by Stratton McCrady

Mara Sidmore presents a unique interpretation of Olivia as both intelligent and foolish.  Unlike many Olivias, Sidmore adds subtle levels to her performance that make her character more human and less of a caricature.  Allyn Burrows portrays the uptight and hapless Malvolio.  Like Sidmore’s performance of Olivia, Burrows moves from extreme character traits to a more subtle and pitiable person.

The largest laughs go to the low comedy, though.   Sir Toby Belch (James Andreassi), Fabian (Gabriel Graetz), and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Doug Lockwood) cavort around stirring up trouble with hilarity wherever they go.  The person who comments and remains stable throughout the craziness is Feste, played by Steven Barkhimer.  Paula Langton imparts the brains of the operation for her drunken cohorts as Maria.  The fool observes the real fools and delights in the confusion created by the other characters.

As they have with many of their shows, the live music brought an additional level of merriment to the production.  Actors’ Shakespeare Project brings joy and laughter with its playful adaptation of Twelfth Night.  The set provides a fanciful playground for the characters to enact their games of love and lunacy.

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