Bard in Boston - Twelfth Night at MIT Shakespeare Ensemble

About Twelfth Night at MIT Shakespeare Ensemble

Previous Entry Twelfth Night at MIT Shakespeare Ensemble Mar. 17th, 2014 @ 08:48 am Next Entry
We've been taking our daughter to MIT Shakespeare Ensemble plays for her birthday ever since their fantastic Romeo and Juliet in 2011, and since she was home for Spring Break/her birthday, we caught their newest version of Twelfth Night.

I've probably seen more Twelfth Nights than any other play since we've moved to Boston; our first was at MIT back in '07, and we've seen multiples at Harvard (including the one set at a Woodstock-like festival, complete with Feste as a pot dealer), at Theatre @ First, and at other places. I don't tend to have favorites, since I've loved every production, and each brings something different.

This one is a nice showcase for the graduating players and some of the newer cast members. Keenan Sunderwirth and Mark Velednitsky -- who we first saw in R&J as Benvolio and Friar Laurence -- have emerged as two of the troop's stars over the years, and this was a good play for them to graduate with (although their performances last fall as simultaneous Hamlets will probably be the ones I remember best). Sunderwirth brings a nice mix of drama and physical comedy as Viola, doing a good job of carrying some of the plot's irony with facial expressions as well as her delivery. And Velednitsky takes a tough male role -- really, the best male parts in this play are reserved for the clowns -- and adds some nice gravitas. They also do a superb job in Act 2, Scene 4 (the one in which Viola talks of her "sister" who pined away from love), putting a whole ton of subtext (and not-so-subtext) onto the stage.

As for the newer Ensemble members, last fall's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Noelle Colant and Amelia Smith, get to be more individual this time as Olivia and Feste, respectively. Both are tough roles, and they carry them nicely. The rest of the servants also do their parts well, with David Perelman as a properly uptight Malvolio, Majdolene Khweis as a slick Sir Toby, Colin Aitken as an very-befuddled Andrew, and Stephanie Cheng as a very impressive Maria (Cheng, like Sunderworth, does a great job with facial expressions). The physical humor of the servants is generally one of the things that makes or breaks a production of this play, and they deliver in spades here.

There's one small role that feels painfully miscast (or who might just have had opening-night jitters), but given the nature of college productions, I'm not inclined to single out one subpar performance. It's not enough to ruin the play, and that's what matters.

Overall, the production's well worth seeing, with some painfully funny moments, small little bits that work really well, and some nice twists on what you'd expect throughout (I'm avoiding specific production spoilers because the production is still running, and folks should get the chance to see what they do).
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