Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT is a comedy based in confused love and mistaken identity; but there are no mistakes, and there is no confusion, in Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre’s outstanding production. Its acting and staging capture the clarity and precision of the Bard’s wit and language, while honoring the classical tenet of “less is more.”
Director Carmen Khan’s focused vision is set seaside in the 1930s. The scenic design and props by Lisi Stoessel and Louise Grafton are minimal, yet each artistic selection is skillfully considered. An upstage railing before a blank backdrop evokes the open ocean, as Maria Shaplin’s lighting changes in shade and mood with the weather and times of day. Costumes by Vickie Esposito capture the era, climate, and personalities, with the men in sand-hued linen, the clown in competing colors and patterns, and the gullible Malvolio in his yellow cross-gartered stockings. From the opening scene, with the entire cast sporting rainbow-striped umbrellas on a bare stage, informed by the Surrealist art of René Magritte, the audience is transported into the world of TWELFTH NIGHT’s delightfully colorful and convoluted plot.
An excellent sound design by the acclaimed Fabian Obispo augments the visual elements, with the booming thunderclaps and noisy downpour of an ocean storm, the screeching of seagulls, and retro-style music—Shakespeare’s “food of love”—inspired by Sylvain Chomet’s animated film THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE and incorporating Obispo’s own original compositions. The production concludes with PST’s signature ensemble dance (choreographed by Barrymore Award winner Karen Getz), which includes fine vocals by the cast, in a bittersweet paean to the pleasures and pain of love.
The acting, under Khan’s well honed direction, is exemplary. Victoria Rose Bonito as Viola/Cesario and Caroline Crocker as Olivia are resplendent in their delivery and comprehension of the beauty and rhythms of Shakespeare’s words. Jered McLenigan as the lovesick Orsino, Rob Kahn as the pompous sour-puss Malvolio, Lesley Berkowitz as the wise fool Feste, and Johnny Smith and Eric Van Wie as the drunken buddies Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Sir Toby Belch offer finely tuned comedic performances marked by controlled movements and readily legible facial expressions, not overblown mugging; they are sophisticated and perfectly tempered—qualities too often lacking in physical comedy.
Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre’s TWELFTH NIGHT is a joy in every aspect; it does the Bard proud!
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Carmen Khan
March 28-May 20, 2012
Philadelphia Shakespeare Theatre
2111 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
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