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Off Broadway Reviews

Twelfth Night

Theatre Review by Cindy Pierre

Virginia Baeta as Viola/Cesario and Carey Urban as Olivia.
Photo by John Santerre.

The Queen's Company's production of Twelfth Night is a meaty display of acting prowess dressed with girl power and nestled in a fun wrap. Performed completely by an "all female, all the time" troupe, this version of Twelfth Night offers a different spin on Shakespeare's cross-dressing themes to hilarious effect. This ain't the stuffy Shakespeare that your classical theater-phobic friends flee from. This production is contemporary, accessible, and plays up all the comedic overtones.

Right out of the gate, The Queen's Company lets the audience know that they're in for something different. As Feste, Natalie Lebert tears into "How Does it Feel?" by Bob Dylan while a shipwreck unfolds in mute mode behind her. The lip-syncing goes on too long, but the show starts on an entertaining foot. From there, Jane Shaw's sound design jumps around different genres and decades, but keeps the mood amusing.

The story, about a woman, Viola (Virginia Baeta) that assumes the identity of a man after her twin brother Sebastian (Amy Driesler) is presumed dead, is packaged nicely in two hours and twenty minutes that go by rapidly. Part of the time is spared by taking shortcuts like doing costume changes onstage. Viola's transformation into a boy right in front of the audience's eyes is directed fluidly by Rebecca Patterson. Everything that proceeds after that in the performance is loose, comfortable, and visibly enjoyed by the cast.

Although almost everyone is in "man-face", sporting mustaches, beards, and short do's, some excel with exaggerated booming voices and manly gaits. The first appreciable thing about Aysan Celik's Malvolio is her resonating, deep voice. However, what keeps you locked into this actor is her performance. She is in good, sometimes inflated company, but she manages to steal every scene that she's in as the steward that gets duped into thinking that her countess, Olivia (Carey Urban), is in love with her.

Though the momentum slows down considerably in Act Two, Twelfth Night delivers on laughs. It is a shining example of defying traditions successfully, and the revelation of serious thespians in the female form.

Twelfth Night
Through November 23
Urban Stages, 259 West 30th Street
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: SmartTix

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