nytheatre.com review by Nicholas Linnehan
July 23, 2010
Oftentimes Shakespeare can be tricky—it takes adeptness with language, talent, and skill. The ensemble of actors in Sonnet Repertory Theatre's Twelfth Night, under the direction of Michael Lluberes, have all of these things and thus make for a very enjoyable night of theatre. (Editor's Note: Click here for Sparknotes' synopsis of Twelfth Night.)
This play is typical of Shakespeare with many subplots coming together to make for a big climax at the end. But the main plot centers around Viola, a woman disguised as a man who falls in love with her master, Orsino. The play challenges our perception of gender and crosses boundaries: in a heat of passion Viola kisses Orsino, but she is still a "man." Orsino falls in love with her, but as a "man." This makes for a topsy-turvy look at sexual orientation and leaves the audience in a state of confusion. Is it heterosexual or homosexual love that Shakespeare is exploring? You could debate about this for hours, but one thing is certain: love is love and knows no limitations. Jolly Abraham (Viola) portrays her female-as-a-male role with great passion and tenacity. She understands the plight of Viola and delivers a top-notch performance. Similarly, her counterpart Lucas Hall (Orsino) delves into the depths of confusion that Orsino is facing; does he love a man or a woman? Hall brings honesty and sincerity to his role, which makes him a joy to watch, although he tends to get a little too quiet during his soul-searching moments which makes it difficult to hear him. Nonetheless these two characters carry off their story well and are intriguing.
Jennifer Lyon, who plays Maria, a chambermaid to the Countess Olivia, is simply superb! She brings great comic timing and physical life to her role. Her talent and wit shine. Seeing her play this role is a delicious treat for all who are there. Also impressive is Phillip Christian (Antonio). Although his connection to the plot is a bit unclear, he plays his role with unrelenting fervor. His love for Nick Choksi, who plays Sebastian, is strong and palpable. I wish further clarification and development was given to this relationship, as it is an intriguing perspective. It makes Twelfth Night seem relevant and modern-day, which is a nice element that this production does well. The longing in Christian's eyes for his lover is haunting.
The most impressive feature of this production is the great ensemble. Everyone in the cast pulls their weight and delivers when they need to. There is lots of music played by the Fool, Ian Lowe. Lowe has acting chops and the ability to play the piano. Although the music is a bit much at times, it adds a nice emotional quality to the production. Similarly, there is some great spectacle to be had. Flowers and water come cascading down from the ceiling, which heightens the mood and adds a bit of magic to the love story.
If you've never seen this story, the Sonnet Repertory Theatre will give you a great introduction to it. Or if you have seen it, this is a great re-envisioning of this tale.