note: entire contents copyright 1999 by Beverly Creasey
Reviewed by Beverly Creasey
The greatest pleasure in seeing "Twelfth Night" again comes from the fresh interpretation...and director Deborah Schoenberg of the Publick's Project Shakespeare has added some stunning and provocative touches.
The students add the excitement. This energetic young cast delivers an evening of Shakespeare which is vital, delightful and most importantly, understandable. Even the small children in the crowd were giggling in anticipation f the plot turns. You see, we in the audience know what the characters on stage do not.
Everyone in Illyria thinks there is but one striking young man who has beguiled the Countess and thrashed the foolish knight, but we know there are two .....and one is a woman in disguise!
Schoenberg begins the play with a masque/ ballet fluently choreographed by Ilyse Robbins and beautifully danced by the whole company. The enthusiastic ensemble is in its element, making each scene a little gem. The audience couldn't help itself, applauding at the end of each scene.
Some of the roles are now female: Stasia Patwell is a mischievous Fabian; Angie Dugas is the faithful, adoring Antonio (now Antonia). But the surprise of the evening is a spectacular pants role: i.e., Sir Toby is played as a manly, carousing knave by a magician named Mary Arida who will make you check your program more than a few times. A better argument for encouraging women to tackle men's roles cannot be found.
Dave Jetta is the dashing Duke, secretly loved by the charming Rose Costello as Viola --- sister of Sebastian whom she believes is dead, hence her disguise in a strange land. Confusion reigns, of course, until brother and sister are reunited and love conquers.
Esme Von Hoffman is the ditsy but well-intentioned Countess and Anthony Carrigan her true, but sudden, love. Alex Lennox-Miller is the churlish servant Malvolio. Emily Stawasz is the angelic fool (who knows quite a lot more of the plot than most Festes), and Alexandra Henson is the clever, scheming Maria. Hanson, Gio Gaynor and Carolyn Scanlon provide lovely music.
It's Schyler Bowditch who runs away with the show as the naive "dormouse" knight. The audience coos out loud when he utters the famous, pathetic "I was adored once, too." His timorous sword-fight with Viola --- hilariously choreographed by Cliff Allen --- is one of the comic highlights of the performance. From the moving masque to the unusual "As You Like It" ending, this "Twelfth Night" is a treat.