Entertainment » Theatre

Twelfth Night or What You Will

by Joe Siegel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Mar 5, 2018
A scene from "Twelfth Night or What You Will at the Burbage Theatre Company through March 18.
A scene from "Twelfth Night or What You Will at the Burbage Theatre Company through March 18.  

Burbage Theatre Company's production of William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night or "What You Will" benefits greatly from actors with sharp comic timing.

"Twelfth Night" was written in 1601 and like all of Shakespeare's comedies, it focuses on the eccentricities of human nature.

The plot deals with a case of mistaken identity and mismatched pairs of lovers.

A shipwrecked Viola (Alison Russo) has landed in Illyria, mourning the loss at sea of her twin brother Sebastian (Marc Mancini.) She disguises herself as a boy, takes the name Cesario, and begins working as a servant to Orsino, the Duke (a suave Leo Castro.) The Duke sends Cesario on a mission to romance Olivia, a Countess (Allison Crews), on the Duke's behalf. Olivia has no interest in Orsino but falls instantly in love with Cesario. For her part, Viola falls in love with Orsino.

Without spoiling the ending, it's safe to say that everything works out for the best after the truth is revealed.

Russo was tremendously likable and sympathetic and had terrific chemistry with Crews, who plays Olivia with the right blend of imperiousness and vulnerability.

Tom Gleadow, who specializes in playing wacky oddballs, is very funny as the drunken uncle of Olivia, Sir Toby Belch.

A running joke has Belch finding bottles of booze tucked away in various places. He is an unapologetic libertine who is cheerfully vulgar and non-conformist.

Belch's feud with Olivia's loyal manservant Malvolio (Dillon Medina) prompts him to try to trick Malvolio into believing that Olivia is in love with him, enlisting as co-conspirators Olivia's maid (a wonderfully eccentric Margaret Melozzi) and the clown Feste. Belch also goads the buffoonish Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Richard Whitehead) into a duel with an equally reluctant Cesario/Viola.

Medina sports tight yellow trousers and an open shirt as he clumsily attempts to seduce Olivia, who is horrified.

Medina does a great job of playing the fool with his facial expressions and physical gestures.

Ben Church also is delightful as Feste, who strums a tiny red guitar and is amused at the insanity unfolding all around him.

Jason Quinn, as sea captain Antonio, and Gabrielle Mcauley, as Olivia's loyal servant Fabian, also gave effective performances.

Costume Designer Morgan Clark has outfitted Feste with an inspired mismatch of colors which constitutes a major fashion faux pas.

Director Jeff Church has mounted a witty and imaginative presentation of this classic story.

"It was our endeavor to remove the restriction of time and place, and allow the environment of the play to be shaped by the characters themselves," Church said in his director's note.

The play features some modern touches such as pop songs from the 1980s and the characters clutch soda cans as they engage in debauchery.

Andrew Iacovelli's set design was simple but effective, consisting of steps and platforms on the stage corners.

This is a fast-paced show which will delight Shakespeare fans and non-fans alike.

"Twelfth Night or What You Will" runs through March 18. Burbage Theatre Company. 249 Roosevelt Avenue. Pawtucket, RI. 401-484-0355. www.burbagetheatre.org.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.

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