Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Twelfth Night"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2005 by Tony Annicone

"Twelfth Night"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The Players fourth show of their 96th season is William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night". The show is set in the 1920's in Illyria. It is about the shipwrecked Viola who disguises herself as a man and falls in love with her employer, Duke Orsino. The Duke sends Cesario, who is Viola in disguise, to try influence the beautiful Olivia to wed him. However Olivia falls in love with Cesario. Viola eventually finds her long lost brother, Sebastian whom she thought was dead. Throw in a fool, a couple of bawdy drunkards, a mischievious serving girl, a stuffy houseman plus other assorted characters and you have the makings of this Shakespearean comedy. Director Joan Dillenback chooses the best and talented 17 people for these roles and she keeps the show in constant motion on a multilevel unit set built by Dan Clement with a working water fountain and 8 staircases on it. Joan breathes new life into this show and her hardworking stage manager, Lydia Matteson keeps things running smoothly all night long.

Rachel Miller-Sprafke plays Viola wonderfully. She delivers her many lines splendidly while pretending to be a boy. Rachel is only in her teens but wins over the audience in this difficult part. Mark Gentsch is very forceful as the rich Duke ordering his servants around while trying to court Olivia, not knowing his own true love, Viola worked for him the past three months. His command of Shakespearean dialogue is astounding and he gives the part the necessary regal bearing. Alexandra Smith, a junior at Rhode Island College, plays the beautiful, Olivia who is in mourning for her father in the first act and is clad in black. (The costumes by Jesse Darrell are gorgeous especially the white gowns in the second act.) She handles the role a woman who falls in love with a man at first sight perfectly while also showing a strong will to get what she wants. Olivia weds Sebastian who she thinks is Cesario. Jay Miscia plays Violia's twin brother with ease. His fight scenes are wonderful and he shows the forceful nature of the role in these sequences.

The biggest scene stealers in this show are Becca Leaphart as Feste, (the fool) and Stephen Palmer as Malvolio, the malcontented servant. Her singing and comedic behavior is hilarious. Becca runs around the stage all night with so much energy and drive that she maintains your attention at all times. Stephen is a hoot and his transition from stiff backed servant with a constant scowl on his face to a grinning, yellow socks wearing buffoon is excellent, too. His letter reading scene with the fool and the 2 drunks is the funniest scene in the show. The 2 drunks, Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek are well played by Walter Cotter and Jim Brown. Their crazy antics will keep you in stiches all night long. Their cohort in their crazy behavior is Olivia's servant, Maria played perfectly by Amy Thompson. Her energy and fantastic line delivery is right on the money. Her character controls Olivia's household, the 2 drunks and eventually gets Malvolio locked up as a madman.

Rounding out this talented cast are Alex Sherba, Bill Dunn, Iain Lawson, Marlowe Tessmer, Lisa Bellegarde and Kathleen McNiff. So for a trip back to Shakespeare, set in the 1920's, be sure to catch "Twelfth Night" to see some dynamic acting. To join this theater club, just give Lydia a call or email her at

"Twelfth Night" (2 - 10 April)
Barker Playhouse, 400 Benefit Street, PROVIDENCE RI
1 (401) 273-0590