Monday, December 7, 2015

Theater Review: Twelfth Night -- CT Repertory

Arlene Bozich and Kevin Hilversum. Photo: courtesy of CT Repertory Theatre
Twelfth Night for the 12th Time, or Perchance it Seems…
By Lauren Yarger
Twelfth Night is one of my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays, but it also is one of the most often produced. It seems as though I have to review a production of this comedy about a shipwreck, mistaken identity and unrequited love at least once a season.

So when heading out to review a Shakespeare production (and there will probably be a Midsummer Night’s Dream, a Romeo and Juliet and maybe one or more of the history plays on my schedule every year as well as a Twelfth Night since the Bard is in the public domain and doesn’t charge royalties) the question isn’t whether or not I will like the play, but what is different about this production? (The best production of Twelfth Night, by the way, was a magical 2009 re-telling in Central Park starring Anne Hathaway, Audra McDonald and Raul Esparza.)

The production at CT Repertory, directed by Victor Maog, is rather matter-of-fact and features a mostly student cast still learning how to let Shakespeare’s language flow easily off their tongues (Voice and Text Coaching by David Alan Stern). The set design is simple, but sometimes confusing – why is there a large uprooted tree hanging upside down throughout?

I won’t take time here to list the plot – there are Sparks Notes if you haven’t read multiple reviews about Twelfth Night or if you can’t follow what is happening on stage because of the uneven flow in this production.

I am just going to list here some highlights that make CT Rep’s production delightfully different: 
  • Equity actors Richard Ruiz as Sir Toby and Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte as Malvolio anchor the cast and lend some much needed humor. Ruiz will be recognized by Connecticut theatergoers for roles in The Winter’s Tale at Yale Rep, Room Service at Westport Country Playhouse as well as his turns at CT Rep as Alfred Doolittle in My Fair Lady and Sancho in Man of La Mancha. You might recognize Guilarte from numerous TV roles. His entrances down the stairs are highlights.
  • Love the Christmas theme. “Historically, the twelve days after Christmas Eve were a time of celebration, role reversal, and saying goodbye to the customary way of life,” according to Dramaturg Molly Hamilton. “Between the pranking, the masquerading, and the abundance of festivity there is definitely much more to this play than what meets the eye.” Perfect! Calvo incorporates Christmas trees in the set design and Maog has characters singing, humming and playing tunes. In addition, notes from carols facilitate scene changes (sound design by Abigail Golec).
  • There’s a touch of puppetry and Kevin Hilversum shows off a neat coin-catching trick as Feste.
The Cast:
Richard Ruiz… Sir Toby
Andrew Ramcharan Guilarte …. Malvolio
Darren Lee Brown…. Orsino
Arlene Bozich…. Maria
Curtis Longfellow…. Fabian
Jeff DeSisto…. Sebastian
Juliana Bearse…. Viola
Madison Coppola…. Olivia
Chester Martin…. Valentine, Officer
Brian Sullivan…. Antonio
Kevin Hilversum…. Feste
Joon Ho Oh…. Sea Captain, Priest
Olivia Benson…. Serving Woman
Max Helfand…. Curio, Officer
Mark Blashford…. Sir Andre Aguecheek

Twelfth Night runs through Dec. 13 at the Nafe Katter Theatre on the UConn Storrs campus. Evening performances start at 7:30 Wednesdays and Thursdays, and at 8 Fridays and Saturdays. Select matinee performances start at 2 pm Saturdays and Sundays. Tickets are $7 to $30 with student tickets for $7: (860) 486-2113; www.crt.uconn.edu.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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