Many theaters attempt to do William Shakespeare these days, fewer start with the hilarious TWELFTH NIGHT, and fewer still have such a well tuned cast to keep the audience laughing as much as the Newtown Arts Company did. Often in community theater actors get caught up in having no clue what their words actually mean that they forget to actually act. TWELFTH NIGHT is one of Shakespeare’s most adapted works, and it was good to see production keep to the original whenever possible.
Jacqueline Schneider (Viola/Cesario) was perfectly cast, and had fantastic body language throughout. It can be hard to pull off both mourning sister and young bravo but she pulled off both beautifully. Her acting was constantly strong, and she was funny at all the right moments. Stuart Myles (Orsino) was remarkable as the infatuated Duke, he constantly keeps the audience attention when speaking but never steals the scene when he isn’t supposed to, a hard task to manage.
Jeremy Hay (Sebastian) plays very well on both ends of Sebastian’s spectrum, both as the grieving brother, and as the confused and happy doppelganger. Hester Kamin (Olivia) was a very funny Olivia, and pulled off both stoic mistress and lovestruck puppy dog sometimes at the same time. The height difference between these two was played to amusing effect.
Christopher Applegate (Sir Toby) was the funniest I’ve seen yet. Jane Landes (Maria) was marvelous and had perfect pacing throughout. Joy Sarcewicz (Fabian) was masterfully funny and did a good job at playing a traditionally male role. Ann D’Silva (Feste) has great comedic timing and stage presence, however her singing was too in the middle for the fool’s songs, she kept the beat too well for it to be hilariously bad, but doesn’t have a show-stopping voice to have it be good for good’s own sake. She made up for it though with great facial expressions throughout. Gary Lumpkin (Sir Andrew) kept me laughing constantly as his dimwitted fop. These actors all carry the workhorse load of the comedy of the show and they really helped keep the show going.
Bob Abrahamson (Malvolio) was fantastic in a hard role to carry as the audience needs to be able to laugh both with and at him. Alan Jett (Antonio) was much more soft spoken than Antonios I’ve seen in the past but he gave a different but still good tilt to the character. Dennis O’Brien (Sea Captain/Priest) was a more minor character but still very memorable, and did a good job of acting in the background without upstaging anyone. The rest of the cast and ensemble were all good in a variety of ways, and Timothy Costello (Valentine) was of spectacular note for never breaking character on stage.
The show as a whole was very enjoyable. With a minstrel style pre-show with singing that was a bit odd and with actors going out and about into the audience to converse. This requires a willing audience and I think it caught quite a few of the patrons off guard. The fight scenes I was not impressed with, actors swung quite a distance from each other and the big fight scene consisted of a single clash of swords, which was rather anti-climactic.
The set design (George Pickering) was very simple but very well used. The lighting for the show (Travis Johnson) was very well done, some of the best I’ve seen in the past year. Multiple lighting effects were pulled off beautifully and this really helped bring extra meaning out of certain scenes. Costumes (Debra Derderian) were beautiful as well, except for an out of place costume on a member of the ensemble and a wig that simply did not play well on an actress’ face. Props were again very nice with the exception of a label on a mug that was not hidden properly. Scene changes were very fast and done by actors instead of the Stage Manager (Natalie Chernicoff) and crew (Colby Langweiler) which I definitely believe helped keep up the pacing of the show.
If you can make the time to see this hilarious production of TWELFTH NIGHT do try and catch it before it’s limited engagement at the Newtown Theater comes to an end. While you can certainly do what you will, if you’re a fan of Shakespearean comedies you’ll be sad you missed it if you do.
by William Shakespeare
Directed by Joe McKernaan
Produced by Marcia Wittman
Stage Managed by Natalie Chernicoff
February 13-19, 2014
Newtown Arts Company
120 N. State Street
Newtown, PA 18940