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A CurtainUp Review
And this sure isn't your parents' Twelfth Night. From the live band (which frankly could have been better) playing the "indie rock score" with the cast whipping out wireless microphones to sing along Spring Awakening style to a haphazard wardrobe to a hippie priest performing marriage ceremonies with a tambourine, over-reverence clearly isn't a problem for director Stephen Stout. While I'm not sure the music is quite as "fresh" as the production notes claim, the band plays it with gusto, and their enthusiasm is contagious. This is indeed a young group of performers, most if not all recent NYU graduates, and their obvious chemistry serves them well. This is a good thing, as the closet chic costumes and (to be kind) minimalist set don't add much to the production. In general, this is obviously meant to feel as modern as possible.
Blessedly, this approach doesn't diminish the richness at the heart of the play, and here Stout and his cast deserve credit for the attention they pay to Shakespeare's language and message. Lots has been made through the years of Malvolio's (played excellently here by Billy Griffin) ill treatment, if not torture, at the hands of Feste (also well played by Brandon Uranowitz) and his cohorts, Sir Toby Belch (Matthew roi Berger, also the composer of the production's score) and Maria (Daliya Karnofsky), but here the bad-tempered steward is grouped on several occasions with Antonio (Hubert Point-Dujour) and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Cale Krise). The effect is striking. Suddenly the play becomes a meditation on castaways of a different kind, and the question of who must pay the price for the merriment and happiness of others becomes an important one. There's a good deal of this kind of subtlety throughout the performance, and it's good to see.
Despite these positives, the news isn't all good. The cast ranges from competent to excellent (Grace McLean is particularly outstanding as Olivia) with two big exceptions: Robbie Collier Sublett, who doesn't seem to understand the difference between melancholy and rage and thus spends most of the play having his Orsino yell at anyone in earshot (throwing away a number of lines in the process), and Corinne Donly, whose high-schoolish presentation of Viola completely wipes out the subtlety of her character. This is a pretty big problem given the importance of these two characters, and it's hard to understand how Stout, who makes so many good choices, missed the boat here. But it's a measure of the overall quality of the production that despite these missteps, the energy combined with the respect for Shakespeare's vision is enough to carry the day, and on the whole this is a show worth seeing.