Story By Danny Rivera / Staff / Twitter: @DannyRiveraLBCC
Using the style and clothing of the 1980s to set a seventeenth century play may seem odd to some. But by transporting William Shakespeare’s classic comedy “Twelfth Night” from a bygone era to relatively modern times, LBCC’s Theater Department accomplishes the impossible: It made Shakespeare entertaining.
Director Anthony Carreiro wanted to bring Shakespeare to a new audience at LBCC, because he believes
“these words are still beautiful 400 years later.” Under his direction, the cast and crew of “Twelfth Night” showed both respect for the old prose and the ability to transport them into a modern setting that will seem familiar to most.
Even though the set is pulling double-duty with director Gregory Mortensen’s production of “Taming of the Shrew”, which is set in the 1890s, the production crew worked with lighting and staging to portray an 80’s vibe that sets the production’s tone wonderfully before the first actor steps on stage.
What really shines through are the performances in front of the set. Kassie Howard and Benjamin Earl are charismatic and animated individually as Olivia/Cesario and Duke Orsino, respectively. But their scenes together create ridiculous amounts of chemistry on stage that leaves you wondering if it continues off it. Furthermore, the comedic trio of Danny Rangel, Will Werner and Jeffrey Benion as Sir Toby, Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Feste are hilarious, channeling equal amounts of Vaudevillian physical comedy and the acerbic wit of a John Hughes film.
But perhaps the aurora in a sea of star performances is Michael Martinez’s portrayal of Malvolio, the holier-than-thou steward of the countess Olivia. The ability to perform comedy well has foiled many professional actors, yet Martinez, in a whirlwind performance, brilliantly executes the dual role of antagonist and tortured fool with perfect comedic timing and a genuineness that makes you feel for the poor bastard.
Perhaps the only complaint I have about the production is in the music used throughout. There was too much focus on pop music from that era for my tastes. For a show that centered on the 1980s, the lack of songs from the decade’s hip-hop and new wave artists made the show’s theme seem slightly topical. In some instances, it makes Carreiro’s vision – introducing newcomers to Shakespeare through a familiar theme – somewhat distracting instead of contributing to the desired effect.
Nevertheless, this is one of the most entertaining and well-produced Shakespeare productions I have seen in
years. It is a fitting sendoff to the LBCC’s Auditorium – which will close for renovations after these productions – and a show worth watching.