Theater Review - Twelfe Night (NY)

BE STILL MY HEART!  Shakespeare’s Globe production of “Twelfe Night or What You Will” is so beautifully done, the three hours with one intermission fly by. Attention to detail in costume, set and music is breathtaking and yet down to earth. And I must remind you that you must arrive at the Belasco Theatre at least one half hour earlier than your curtain, because you are invited to see the actors, all male, don their many layered costumes and makeup. As exciting and fascinating as it is to watch, it is the clarity of speech and development of character that is so stunning. There is not a word that cannot be heard and/or understood. There is no pretention; humor bubbles under the action, which takes place in Ilyria, under the excellent direction of Tom Carroll, associate director of The Globe Theatre of London. 

Mark Rylance, the first artistic director after Sam Wannamaker of the Globe, has enchanted us with his iconoclastic performances in “Jerusalem,” “ La Bete,” and “Boeing-Boeing.”  Here, he is a superb Olivia; grieving for her dead father and brother, she is dressed in layers of black with accents of gold.  A crown sits on her coal black hair. Her lips are crimson red; her skin white alabaster.  She refuses to see anyone, but is finally captivated by Samuel Barnett’s charming Viola, who has dressed as a young man, Cesario.  Viola is looking for her brother, whom she believes has been lost at sea.

A number of actors in this large cast excel; however, I will mention several who are outstanding: Stephen Fry, making his Broadway acting debut as Malvolio, egoist and buffoon, was cheered by the audience, and rightly so.  Paul Chahidi, whom we watched carefully as he was dressed on stage, is a marvelous Maria, a lady who keeps the jesters in check. Peter Hamilton Dyer as Feste sings like a folk star.

Jenny Tiramani’s design for the production is brilliant.  Carved blond wood frames the stage with boxes on each side for audience members.  The music, composed by Claire van Kampen, is extraordinary with solos and chorus pieces lending beauty and ambiance to the piece. There is a note in the Playbill that tells us that all the instruments like rauschpfeifes and tabors are original to Shakespeare’s time. I will do an in-depth column about this in the weeks to come. The costumes are all made by hand by many craftsmen and women.  

In all, I would implore you to attend “Twelfe Night” and I look forward to reporting on “Richard III,” which is playing in Repertory at the Belasco Theatre. 

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