William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night (or What You Will) is in production at All Beaches Experimental Theatre through Dec. 22. This creative and entertaining production is a must see this holiday season.
In Shakespeare’s Britain, on the 12th night after Christmas, wild, raucous and inclusive parties were enjoyed by many, and secret affections could be declared. Brilliantly adapted and directed by Brian Niece, the production is faithful to Shakespeare’s work yet interpreted for present time and place. While poetry and humor are the foundation of the play, the lively production also includes a significant amount of music and movement.
The story is one of loss, longing and love all tied together with the merriment that comes from a classic Shakespeare comedy. It includes cross-dressing, mistaken identity, unrequited love, humor, and deep emotion.
After a shipwreck, Viola is convinced her brother, Sebastian, has drowned. She dresses as a boy and takes a position as a servant for Orsino. As she falls in love with him, Orsino sends his new servant off try to gain Olivia’s affections. Rather than fall for Orsino, Olivia becomes enamored with the disguised Viola. Meanwhile, Dame Toby and her pranksters, Andrew and Maria, indulge in hijinks and plot against Malvolio, Olivia’s steward.
The ensemble cast is superb, telling Shakespeare’s story with lively energy and animated style. Mara Grigg is memorable as the jester, Feste, delivering spirited singing and dancing throughout the show. Stephanie Santiago expertly shows the many sides of Viola, and Kenneth Dowling is commanding as the fashionably melancholy Orsino. Marielle Erskine gets numerous laughs as the drunken Dame Toby as does Logan Mays as her drinking companion, Sir Andrew, and Rachel Swanzy as the plotting Maria. Reed Grubbs is convincing as the love-lost Olivia, and Jan Peter Buksar (Malvolio/Antonio) and Austin Kelley (Sebastian/Valentine) skillfully play dual roles with flair.
Music Director Jason Valdez appears on stage as DJ Fabian and provides additional instrumentation. The set, designed by Tom Fallon, exudes vivid modern style. The costumes, designed by Katie McCloskey, are dazzling with spectacular colors and textures. The production team also includes assistant director Kristin Livingston, composer Michael Yarick, choreographer Cenetta Baker, technical director and lighting designer Bryan Frank, stage manager and light operator Izabella Unice, and stagehand Laura Young.
Performances continue Dec. 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, and 22. Curtain is at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets online are $24, $14 for under 18. Tickets at the door are $25, $15 for under 18.
For tickets, visit http://www.abettheatre.com or call (904) 249-7177. ABET is located at 544 Atlantic Blvd. in Neptune Beach.
Photography by Susan Roche