Friday, June 26, 2009

Twelfth Night (The SOB Review)

Twelfth Night (The SOB Review) – Delacorte Theatre, Central Park, New York, New York

**** (out of ****)

Love is in the air, and its breeze that's blowing straight through Central Park is William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night.

It may not have been the playwright who coined that enduring mantra of the stage, “The show must go on.” But just try telling that to the extraordinary ensemble in the current Public Theatre Shakespeare in the Park production of Twelfth Night. The night I saw the show, they demonstrated a level of magnificent moxie even the Bard would surely have appreciated.

Early this decade, I experienced what many William Shakespeare purists believe was the quintessential modern-day mounting of Twelfth Night. In it, one of the great playwright’s most beloved works known for its gender-bending ways was gender-bending itself with recent Tony winner Mark Rylance and fellow (literally) Royal Shakespearean actors portraying all the characters, male and female alike. Purists would say that this was not unlike how the play about mistaken identity and love would have been mounted long before women were ever allowed to take to legitimate stages.

So while I fully expect that some may sniff that Daniel Sullivan’s truly lovely and gorgeous revival breaks virtually no new dramatic turf, I say, who really cares? With its bawdy charms, call this Twelfth Night an impure delight filled with unmitigated thrills.

When you’re blessed to have some of the most revered theatrical royalty of our times on full display, including Raúl Esparza as Orsino, Audra MacDonald as Olivia, Julie White as her attendant, Michael Cumpsty as Malvolio and contemporary theatre’s greatest scene-stealer David Pittu as Feste, is it any wonder that rain or shine, this is a formidable revival with which to be reckoned and revered?

Add to that mix film actress Anne Hathaway’s wondrously mesmerizing turn as Viola, and you’re witnessing a new theatre queen being born. Hathaway doesn’t just acquit herself superbly, she more than proves her Shakespeare mettle with natural grace, and like Esparza and Pittu, she sings divinely as well. Someone needs to figure out how to bring her to a Broadway stage where she belongs.

During my particularly wet performance, I was struck by how unfazed Sullivan’s excellent ensemble seemed to be by the downpour. Indeed, immediately after the first scene of the second act, a rain hold was called. While the showers continued even after the hold was lifted one half hour later, the cast brought home such determined joy, that it was hard not to feel a symbiotic affinity with them for having braved the storm together with you.

Whether skies are clear or cloudy, don’t be deterred from seeing this Twelfth Night. Either way, you’re not likely to come away anything but enthralled and enchanted.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

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At 26 June, 2009, Blogger Dorian said...

Hathaway is actually *going* to be on the Broadway stage before too long, if I remember correctly. She's starring in 'Get Happy', about the life of Judy Garland, which (as I recall), is meant to open simultaneously (or nearly so) as a movie and on Broadway, both with her as Judy.

At 26 June, 2009, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...


Thanks. Yes, you are correct that Get Happy: The Life of Judy Garland with Anne Hathaway is aiming for Broadway. Let's just hope that it actually comes true.



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