Island; Or, To Be or Not to Be
nytheatre.com review by Sarah Congress
September 27, 2012
Island; Or, to Be or Not to Be, performed by the New York Shakespeare Exchange at the Connelly Theater, turned out to be a fun night of Shakespearian comedy. With an extremely energetic, vibrant, and talented cast, I was surprised to discover that the company is very new—this show being only its third production.
Inspired by Shakespearian tragedy and comedy, Island tells a tale similar to The Tempest. A terrible storm washes up two young, modern women, Julia (a twin) and K, to a backward, Shakespearian-esque land, where an “exiled king,” reigns. The girls dress in drag, resulting in a series of mistaken identities, star-crossed lovers, love-triangles, the works, as Prince Palamon, and his best friend Arcite attempt mistaken courtships. Also on the island is a colorful array of characters including a vile witch, Siamese-twins, an-exiled king with a dark secret, the king’s jealous and revengeful brother, and a hysterical, bumbling magistrate and his minions. The play also includes an exciting sword fight between Arcite and Palamon, and brilliant comedic pantomime and antics by Brian Cheng—as “Minor-Half-Deputy-Silence.”
Michael Shattner was hysterical as Sir Pompey Martext. He not only has excellent stage presence, but great comedic timing. Eric Percival did a great job at playing the dignified, heroic king, as well as Brad Lewandowski, who played his son. But Brian Cheng, as Minor-Half-Deputy-Silence really stole the show. He spoke not one line in the entire performance, but his pantomime and facial expressions made him tremendously memorable.
Scenic designer, G. Warren Stills created a lovely castle—complete with a balcony for the famous Romeo and Juliet scene. The costumes, created by Kristine Koury, were standard Shakespearian garb—Rosaline’s dress was quite beautiful—and the witch’s outfit was a perfect puke green.
My only problem with the show was its length. I felt that the show was in need of some cutting. I feel the performance would be more entertaining with a shorter running time. It would keep the material fresher.
Island; Or, To Be or Not to Be delivered all that it promised. A fun night of Shakespearean-esque farce and fanfare. I am eager to see future productions from the talented actors of New York Shakespeare Exchange.