By William Shakespeare; Directed by Melody Erfani
Produced by LES Shakes
Off Off Broadway, Classic Play
Runs through 5.11.15
by Shoshana Roberts on 4.29.15
Sarah Anne Miles and Mike Maloney in Twlefth Night. Photo by Edison Koo.
BOTTOM LINE: A messy version of Shakespeare's classic show with actors getting drunk.
Sir William Shakespeare is a name we all know and love. Perhaps that is incorrect. I rephrase: Shakespeare is a name we all know and a handful of us love him and his classic texts. LES Shakes (Lower East Side Shakespeare) is a company who wants to not only bring together their local community, but also use innovative ideas to “inspire people and provide entertainment.” During this run of Twelfth Night or What You Will – DRINK they require one of their actors to become inebriated before showtime. The night I saw it the character Viola, played by Kathleen O'Neal, was dubbed the unlucky tribute. Not even halfway through the performance she was stumbling and slurring her words. By the end the other actors were trying to hold her up and lead her where she needed to go. It was a struggle for me to even think about the acting and staging because everything was disrupted by the drunken antics. Considering how many sections of the story were skipped over as a result, it was good that I am extremely familiar with the show so I could follow along.
In case you want to see the show, I shall inform you that Shakespeare's plots involve convoluted details that help make his works entertaining. In Twelfth Night there is a mixture of multiple accounts of mistaken identities and crass humor. Most aspects of the show revolve around Viola and Sebastian (Peter Collier), identical twins who each believe the other has died at sea. Finding herself in the land of Illyria, Viola masks her femininity to serve her love, Duke Orsino (Ben Sheedy), by disguising herself as a young man named Cesario. Orsino sends Viola (as Cesario) to the woman he loves, the beautiful Lady Olivia (Sarah Anne Miles), but she rebukes Cesario's advances and becomes quite enamored with him (or her, since Cesario is Viola in disguise). Eventually Sebastian finds his way to Illyria and even more commotion occurs. If that is not enough, a subplot runs through the story with Olivia's uncle Sir Toby Belch (Ben Sheedy); his ridiculously amusing companion Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Peter Marciano); Malvolio (Mike Maloney), servant to Olivia; and Maria (Gina Doherty), Olivia's handmaiden.
This production is a part of LES Shakes' F*ckin Up Shakespeare series and is a fundraiser to perform Romeo and Juliet for free at East River Park this summer. It is wonderful that this group is “promoting accessibility to all while focusing on classical works.” What is not so great is the manner in which they are jeopardizing the health of their actors. I was unable to concentrate on what was being said because I was worried Ms. O'Neal needed medical attention.
(Twelfth Night or What You Will - DRINK plays at various locations, through 5.11.15. Performances are Sundays at 7:30 and Mondays at 8:30. May 3 and 4 are at the Treehouse Theatre, 154 West 29th Street; May 10 and 11 are at Lucky Jack's, 129 Orchard Street. Tickets are $25 and are available at lesshakespeareco.org.)