REVIEW: Shakespeare’s TWELFTH NIGHT

at the Denver Center

by Michael Mulhern

William Shakespeare’s classic gender swapping, revenge plotting, sideline conspiring, love triangle–ing comedy is always a fun romp to witness onstage. Now I Love Shakespeare, I Love the Denver Center, and I Love Shakespeare at the Denver Center; unfortunately this was not the case with their latest production of TWELFTH NIGHT. There is a difference between good and great and while this play had a lot of redeeming qualities that kept me engaged, the production as a whole left me wanting more. Let’s break it down….

When I saw the cast listing for this show, I was absolutely ecstatic  – so many of the Denver Center Company veterans would be together onstage for one of my favorite Shakespearean comedies. Sam Gregory, Larry Paulsen, Lawrence Hecht and Kim Staunton all together onstage – who can say no? These masters of their craft and Shakespeare did not disappoint and I was so delighted to see some old friends again doing what they do best. The true standout of the show was Mehry Eslaminia as Viola/Cesario. She had this raw tortured and conflicted sense of self that demanded the audience’s attention. She truly connected with the role and had an intimate knowledge of Shakespeare and his gifted words. Alex Purcell was also quite impressive as her charismatic brother, Sebastian. I also thought Corey Allen showed a strong presence onstage as Orsino. Krystal Lucas is quite stunning as Olivia, but her performance and delivery were just a little one-note and monotone. Had she infused a little more Beyonce fierceness or some Tiffany Haddish sass, it would have brought the house down. A round of applause has to happen for the merry band of supporting cast for giving us just enough delightful melodrama and antics and especially the live and jubilant band.  

Especially with Shakespeare comedies, one of the most crucial elements of the show is the blocking which a director has to treat like a master surgeon and this is one of the biggest issues I had with the production. While I commend director Chris Coleman for wonderful casting, the blocking was just a little clumsy and left a couple bare moments onstage and made the play drag on just a bit. I must say that I did completely adore the live music infused into the show (with music by Tom Hagerman). It brought the energy up and lifted the audiences spirits, as shown by the thunderous applause. The sword fighting, under the direction of fight choreographer John E. Armour was also fun to watch.

I am not sure if it was intentionally intended or just a happy coincidence (since the Main Stage Theatre is under construction), but the “theater-in-the-round” Space Theatre was the perfect choice for this Shakespearean play and reminded me of how audiences would witness the plays of the Bard at Stratford on Avon. Set design by Robert Mark Morgan seemed simplistic at first, but as the play unraveled the set opened up to so many delightful surprises and I absolutely loved it. Lighting by designer Charles R. MacLeod only further enhanced this superb set. Accolades also need to go out to the fantastic period costumes by the genius resident designer Kevin Copenhaver. His diverse and bright and vibrant costumes and codpieces were one of the highlights of the show!

While I did have some minor issues with the production as a whole, I did thoroughly enjoy myself and left smiling and ultimately….isn’t that the ideal end-result? So be non-conventional this Christmas season and experience the wonder that is Shakespeare and the Denver Center!!!

TWELFTH NIGHT  is entertaining audiences now through December 22nd at the Space Theatre of the Denver Center Complex. For tickets or more information, contact the Denver Center Box Office by calling 303-893-4100 or online at www.denvercenter.org.

 

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