Off-Broadway Review: “Twelfth Night, Or What You Will” at Classic Stage Company

Off-Broadway Review: “Twelfth Night, Or What You Will” as Classic Stage Company (Through Saturday January 6, 2018)
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld
Reviewed by Joseph Verlezza
Theatre Reviews Limited

A visit to Classic Stage Company for the current production of “Twelfth Night” is almost like a case of Déjà vu: one could be watching the Company’s previous production of “As You Like it” which closed on October 22nd. The formula for both new productions of the Shakespeare classics involve adding music and singing, the same configuration of the theater and basically the same somewhat barren set. The two mistaken-identity, gender bending, all ends well romantic antic farces are too alike to run consecutively as CSC’s 50th season openers, unless they are performed in repertory with primarily the same actors. Even then, some sort of different sets and staging would be essential. It is mentioned in the program by Artistic Director John Doyle that this was done purposefully since it would be interesting to see the companion pieces, written within a short time span, alongside each other. This endeavor only managed to sabotage this current production by Fiasco Theater, not by any fault of their own.

The plot, which is too intricate to explain, deals with shipwrecked fraternal twins, Olivia and Sabastian, who each think the other has perished in the disaster. Viola (the convincing Emily Young) dresses as a man Cesario, to become servant to Orsino (an aristocratic and benevolent Noah Brady) who is in love with Olivia (a fraught and decisive Jessie Austrian). When Orsino sends Cesario with a missive to Olivia stating his affection for her, she falls in love with young Cesario who is really Viola. Sebastian (a demure and virtuous Javier Ignacio) shows up on the scene, who Olivia thinks is Cesario, and quickly marries him as to avoid the grips of Orsino. All is revealed in the end and Orsino marries Viola, along with Olivia’s drunken cousin Sir Toby Belch (an amiable Andy Grotelueschen) marrying her waiting gentle woman, Maria (played with wonderful energetic, devilish charm by Tina Chilip). Rounding out the competent cast are Paul L. Coffey as Malvolio, Daniel Samuel as Antonio and Paco Tolson as Sir Andrew Aguecheek. It is filled with mishaps, subplots, twists and turns as the farcical scenario unfolds.

Co-directed Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld, the action moves at a quick pace but is at times burdened by the musical interludes which breaks the pace of the farce. If you have not seen the previous production by the Classic Stage Company, indeed include this incarnation of “Twelfth Night” in your theater schedule. But if you have, there is no need to venture out for the 2-hour and 45-minute rather lackluster production.