Sunday, January 20, 2013

Review: Shakespeare Miami's Twelfth Night

Like me, my kids enjoy their movies. One of their favorites--all three of them, ages 5, 12, and 15--is the comedy She's the Man, a 2006 teen romp starring Amanda Bynes and Channing Tatum, and based on William Shakespeare's play Twelfth Night. For some reason, She's the Man isn't a favorite among critics; maybe they just don't get comedy, I don't know. Regardless, when a friend informed me that there would be a a performance of Twelfth Night at a nearby outdoor facility (Pinecrest Gardens, née Parrot Jungle), I figured it would be a great opportunity to expose the kids (not the youngest) to a little high-class culture for a change.

The play is being put on by Shakespeare Miami, a theater troupe and cultural promotion organization that has the audacity to hold free performances, as well as hold various free workshops and discussion groups. My one great sorrow here is that this review is not following my attendance on opening night--that was last week--but on the second to last night. Hear that kids? There's only one show left, today at 5:00 (Sunday, January 20th). And it's free. Free, do you hear? Shakespeare for everyone!

But is it any good?

In a word, yes. We took our seats--front row, by the way--in the small amphitheater, my older two kids and I along with their twelve-year-old cousin, and patiently waited for the show to begin. There was no curtain, the set was minimalist with the few set pieces being a couch/bench and a bar. Oh, did I mention that this production was set in the Roaring '20's? There's fun for ya. The actors were quite close; it was very intimate. Not only did they enter and exit scenes from stage right and stage left, but also from the audience, itself. In a few scenes, actors spoke their soliloquies from the audience.

In keeping with the setting, the performance was interspersed with a few popular songs from the era, along with a couple of tangos. Despite the Shakespearean language--they stayed true to the original in this regard--these additions worked very well, as did the overall setting.

Performance-wise, I can't say any of the actors did poorly; the leads--Viola/Cesario, Duke Orsino, and Countess Olivia--were all quite good, as performed by Ashley Armstrong, Evan Judson, and Laura Ruchala, respectively. Armstrong and Judson sold the "unnatural" attraction between Cesario and Orsino with ease. David Berry as Feste was flawless, holding the play together from start to finish (which, by the way, involved an a capella performance of Cole Porter's "Let's Do It"). Michele Perkins as Maria was also quite good.

But in my opinion--and that of my kids (the twelve year old, by the way, is in a drama magnet program)--the showstealers of this performance were Eric Stotts as Sir Toby Belch, Erika Johnson as Sir Andrew Augecheek, and Arturo Sierra as Malvolio. The back and forth between Sir Toby and Sir Andrew was particularly hilarious; both actors were fully in character and their timing was impeccable. Sierra, for his part, was a one-man laugh machine.

And aside from the tangos, there was also a refreshingly well-choreographed sword fight, a pleasant bonus to say the least.

Looking for something to do today? Run, don't walk, to Pinecrest Gardens and catch the final performance of Shakespeare Miami's Twelfth Night at 5:00 pm. You won't regret it.

And bookmark Shakespeare Miami's homepage. They're a group worth watching. I can't wait to see what their next performance entails. Oh, and feel free to send a little jingle their way, as well. Such fine people deserve our--the community's--support.

Cheers, all.

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