Off Broadway (and sometimes Broadway) Reviews and Information.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Twelfe Night in Rare Form at the Belasco

Richard Shakespeare’s Twelfe Night is a comically complex piece of puffery, executed to perfection onstage at the Belasco Theatre by Shakespeare’s Globe productions.  The synopsis should be read before the piece begins, but pre-performance stage rituals prevent most of the audience from doing so.  Never mind, the Twelfe Night, in this abridged format, takes pains to keep the audience up to speed on the current identity of the many characters.

In short, there is a shipwrecked young woman, Viola, who is one of only 2 survivors of a disaster at sea.  Stranded in Illyria, she disguises herself as a young man, Cesario, and enters the service of Duke Orsino.  Duke Orsino is bewitched by the beauty of fair Olivia, but Olivia is in mourning and will not receive any suitors.  The Duke sends Cesario to plead his case, but Olivia falls in love with the messenger, not the sender.
Samuel Barnett as Viola (as Ceserio) & Mark Rylance as Olivia

Meanwhile, Olivia’s house is full of shenanigans.  She has a suitor in residence, Sir Andrew Aguecheck, a housemaid, a fool, the steward Malvolio, and a cousin, Sir Toby Belch all visiting the estate.  As celebrations of twelfth night festivities begin, Malvolio enters to scold the household at the frivolity - while the lady of the house is in mourning.  The party, unfairly chastised, concocts a plan to embarrass Malvolio in front of his mistress Olivia.

Meanwhile elsewhere, Viola’s twin brother was not, as thought, drowned.  The brother, Sebastian, and his friend Antonio proceed to Orsino’s court, and thereafter he is introduced to the lady Olivia’s company.  Chaos ensues, as if it hadn’t ensued already.

As it would be in Shakespeare’s time, the sparkling cast is all male. Mark Rylance proves wonderful as Olivia, a woman who is delighted to find inappropriate passion and annoyed at the inability to quench it.  Samuel Barnett somehow pulls off Viola pretending to be a man, and uncomfortable with the duplicity.  His is a strong performance, necessary when playing opposite Mr. Rylance.

Stephen Fry as Malvolio and Mark Rylance
I would be remiss not to mention Stephen Fry as Malvolio.  Having been a long time fan, his New York premiere was a fantastic surprise to me (I should have investigated more thoroughly, but sometimes the best gifts are the unexpected).  His Malvolio was given the flare of Lord Melchett, and was a joy to behold.

The set was created as homage to the great halls of the aristocracy, flanked with audience members.  Director Tim Carroll made wonderful use of the space, the play and this most excellent cast in this wonderful performance of Twelfe Night.
Twelfe Night (in rep with King Richard The Third)
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Director: Tim Carroll
Cast: Mark Rylance, Samuel Barnett, Stephen Fry, Liam Brennan, Colin Hurley, Paul Chahidi, Peter Hamilton Dyer, Jospeh Timms, Angus Wright

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