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Reviewed by:
  • Twelfth Night
  • Peter T. Donahue
Twelfth Night Presented by the Actors Shakespeare Company at Jersey City University's West Side Theatre, Jersey City, New Jersey. June 1–11, 2006. Outdoor performances at Exchange Place Plaza, Jersey City, New Jersey. June 15–24, 2006. Playmasters Mia Borrelli and Ron Sanborn. Company Manager Cindy Boyle. Scenic and Lighting designer Paul Hudson. Costume Designer Eva Lachur Omeljaniuk. Music Master/Composer Anthony Bez. Musicians Andrew Cordle, Laura Liben. Choreographer Kristen Seidle. Stage Manager Natalie Lebert. With Colin Ryan (Orsino), Eva Sachs (Curio, Olivia's Servant), Nicola Barber (Fabian, Orsino's Attendant), Santo Sanabria (Second Officer, Orsino's Attendant), Gregory Gray (Valentine, First Officer), Bethany Reeves (Viola), Peter Galman (Captain, Antonio), Benjamin Curns (Sir Toby Belch), Kate Ross (Maria), Timur Kocak (Sir Andrew Aguecheek), Ed Roggenkamp (Feste, Priest), Susanna Baddiel (Olivia), Michael Hajek (Malvolio), and Justin Gibbs (Sebastian).

The Actors Shakespeare Company's production of Twelfth Night continued the company's mission to explore the possibilities afforded by Elizabethan stage practices. As in their production of Hamlet (February–March 2006), the players invited the audience to participate in a constructed reality while remaining aware of it as a fictional space defined by conventions. With this foundation, the production effectively emphasized Twelfth Night's characters—as well as its setting—as explorations of identity-as-performance. [End Page 100]


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Figure 1.

Bethany Reeves as Viola in the Actors Shakespeare Company production of Twelfth Night. Photograph: Boyle Image.

[End Page 101]

The invitation to a two-layered experience was made by Ed Roggenkamp, in character as Feste. Before the play, he gave an appropriately humorous and informative introduction, explaining that ASC is an "Elizabethan practices" company and that there would be no fourth wall. Then, preshow music included appropriate historical selections. Nicola Barber, in costume as a courtier, led the audience in a ribald ballad, accompanied by a pit orchestra also in full Elizabethan dress.


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Figure 2.

Susanna Baddiel as Olivia, Bethany Reeves as Viola in the Actors Shakespeare Company production of Twelfth Night. Photograph: Boyle Image.

The audience and musicians were constantly drawn into the play's world throughout the production. All the characters addressed the audience from time to time, with Sir Toby Belch and Feste making most use of the audience's energy and response. I had the good fortune of sitting behind an uninhibited boy who delightedly echoed Sir Toby's lines, providing the actor opportunities to throw glances and establish a real rapport. Sir Andrew took full advantage of 1.3.49-50: "I would not undertake her in this company"—referring to the audience. As for the musicians, the show began with a prelude that crossed from frame to text when Orsino entered, telling the musicians to play on, and then to cease. When Feste was asked by Orsino to sing in 2.4, Feste cued the orchestra to begin the air. When Orsino interrupted several times to qualify his request, Feste accordingly cut and cued the orchestra until finally the song could start. Clearly the orchestra was not in a theatre, but in the Duke's chamber playing, just as the audience was there watching. [End Page 102]

And yet the audience was clearly meant to experience the play as artifice. This was seen in the way the players and musicians "enacted" set changes. The set itself was spare; a table, a bench, and chairs occupied the space, and a few banners with simple floral motifs adorned the walls. The set changes, by contrast, were stagy and elaborate. The pit orchestra signaled a transition, and members of the company strode onstage in the manner of an organized court dance, and reconfigured the set pieces in time to the music. Some actors playfully spun chairs while others darted under moving tables. These entertainments sometimes even engaged with the narrative: while the set was moving after Cesario and Sir Andrew's "duel," two players pantomimed an exaggerated fight. Sometimes, a set change was indicated by nothing more than a brief melody on the bassoon. Thus was the fictional space of Illyria created more out of music...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-1427
Print ISSN
0748-2558
Pages
pp. 100-104
Launched on MUSE
2007-04-12
Open Access
No
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