Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: Connecticut and the Berkshires

Twelfth Night
Yale Repertory Theatre
Review by Zander Opper | Season Schedule

Tiffany Denise Hobbs and Moses Ingram
Photo by Joan Marcus
Yale Repertory Theatre's production of Twelfth Night is a fabulous and fantastic evening of theatre. Presented as a self-proclaimed "Afro-futurist" production, with an all-black cast, this is a show that really turns Shakespeare on its ear. With a combination of stunning costumes, fantastical projections, and moments that feel right out of a dance club, this is an electric staging of the play, and there isn't a wasted line reading or gesture from beginning to end. For the first ten minutes, or so, it almost feels like too much, with its burst of dance music and hallucinatory visuals, but once things settle down, it is obvious that, although this Twelfth Night is going to be strikingly different, it will be true to Shakespeare's play.

The performances are superlative right down the line, with some of them actually stopping the show. As the separated twins at the center of the play, Moses Ingram is a superb Viola and Jakeem Dante Powell is just as good as Sebastian. Also standing out are William DeMeritt, as a riveting Orsino, and Allen Gilmore is a riot as Malvolio, especially in the scene where he painstakingly tries out different ways to smile, which elicited big laughs at the performance I attended. Abubakr Ali is an adorable Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Chivas Michael is a lot of fun as his frequent companion, Sir Toby. Erron Crawford does a great deal of singing in the show, playing Feste as a kind of a rock star, and he is pretty terrific. As the lady's maid Maria, Ilia Isorelys Paulino is absolutely delicious and nearly steals the show.

But there is one performer who truly stuns in this reimagined Twelfth Night: the divine and magnificent Tiffany Denise Hobbs as Olivia. From the moment she crosses the stage, with her entourage of servants, one feels that this Olivia is quite a woman to be reckoned with. Wearing gorgeous and luxurious costumes (brilliantly designed by Mika H. Eubanks), Hobbs is a diva of the highest order and is able to bring down the house with just a raising of her eyebrow. Her performance alone would make Twelfth Night worth seeing.

Carl Cofield is the laudable director of this enterprise, which generates a great deal of laughter and applause. There is also the resplendent physical production, with Riw Rakkulchon's scenic design being impressively reminiscent in spirit to Broadway's The Lion King, without being a replica. Lighting designer Samuel Kwan Chi Chan does wonders throughout and works splendidly with projection designer Brittany Bland. And Frederick Kennedy provides the crystal clear sound design and the rousing music for the show.

Indeed, there is a great deal to marvel at in this production, with many treats for both the eyes and the ears. Perhaps the most amazing quality, however, is that, even with all the glitter and splash, Shakespeare's text and story still manage to pierce the heart, particularly in the moving finale. Thanks to director Carl Cofield and the sterling artists at his disposal, all of whom fully realize his vision of the show, this Twelfth Night is probably unlike anything you have ever seen or heard before and is, thus, most highly recommended.

Twelfth Night, through April 6, 2019, at Yale Repertory Theatre, 1120 Chapel St., New Haven CT. For tickets and information, please visit or call the box office at 203-432-1234.