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Twelfth Night

By William Shakespeare; Directed by Judith Jarosz


Elizabeth Kensek, Annalisa Loeffler, and Josh Powell in Twelfth Night. Photo by David Fuller

BOTTOM LINE: Never a dull moment, this delightfully witty production delivers with its freshness and on-stage talent.

Codpieces, prancing and puns, oh my. Shakespeare has never been as keen and as witty as it is right now at the Theatre Ten Ten, at the Park Avenue Christian Church. Start with some idle hands, add plenty of ale, a good dose of libido, some song and dance, and get ready to watch a world turned upside down in this extremely enjoyable, often hilarious production of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, directed by the Theater Ten Ten's (now its 55th year!) artistic director Judith Jarosz.

This head-spinning tale of l'amour and lust, with its spider's web of mistaken identities, is the perfect excuse to watch a wonderfully talented cast make the most of every delightfully dirty, marvelously malicious pun thrown their way. This play is never better then when we watch the fools - yet aren't they all fools - relish in their song and dance and spar with their wine-ridden retorts, and before you know it you can't help but have their energy and playfulness rub off on you, laughing at every wobbled step and uninhibited song.

The cod pieces couldn't get any bigger or more colorful, the hair is as bad as can be, with breath to match, as the actors playfully relish in their over-sexed characters having more fun with each interplay as I thought was possible. No joke is thrown away and no opportunity is wasted to squeeze yet another zinger from the familiar tale of transgendered mistaken identities and misread innuendos.

The production touts itself as a Shakespearean-Moroccan hybrid which had the potential to give this 400-year old play some unique gender-bending modern relevance. The company's mission statement does mention something about unconventional casting, and the pre-show music, an interesting mix of traditional Persian twang with electro-house bass does set the scene for something different, but all that is quickly forgotten without a moment's regret as the play follows a more straightforward take.

The set is vibrantly painted, and the lighting, with its brief flashes of underused dynamic touches (I suppose there can only be one stormy shipwreck sequence), are co-designed by the team of Mexican designers Giles Hogya and Eduardo Mier. But in the end it's the costumes, superbly done by Deborah Wright Houston, that take the cake with multilayered frill and attention to detail that help set the scene of idle decadence.

I urge everyone to help give this deserving production, and its ├╝ber-talented, seasoned cast, the audience it deserves. For very young to very old, I have no doubt you will enjoy yourself, no matter your tastes.

(Twelfth Night plays at Theater Ten Ten, 1010 Park Avenue, between 84th & 85th Street, through May 23, 2010. Performances are Mondays at 8pm, Thursdays at 7pm, Fridays through Saturdays at 8pm, and Sundays at 3pm, with an additional performance on Wednesday May 19th at 7pm. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at theatermania.com or by calling 212-288-3246. For more show info visit theater1010.com.)