Sweet science

Twelfth Night

By William Shakespeare
directed by Jim Elliot
original music by Kurt Leege
Bottom's Dream Arts
Trilogy Theatre
341 W. 44th St. (502-0887)
Equity showcase (closes Nov. 11)
Review by Julie Halpern

Bottom's Dream Arts' second full-length season is dedicated to the theme of isolation and the lengths people will go to fit into society. Like all great comedies, Shakespeare's multifaceted masterpiece is tinged with tragedy, and director Jim Elliot focused on the difficulties the characters have in connecting with one another. Twelfth Night is considered a festive comedy, but the events that unfold on this occasion are also dark and unsettling, and Elliot and his cast are to be commended for their care in exploring these less appealing aspects. Elliot exposes the careless treatment of Antonio, Andrew Aguecheek, Malvolio, and Feste alongside the twists and turns on the lovers' journey. His sensitivity to each character's plight, and his collaborative style, resulted in daring and memorable performances.

Shannon Haragan and Janelle Schremmer, who made favorable impressions in last year's Midsummer Night's Dream as rude mechanicals, contributed bravura performances in leading roles. Haragan was a glamorous, high-spirited Olivia and Schremmer was a petite, adorable Viola whose command of Shakespeare's text was a joy. Rachael Johnson as Maria was an irresistibly rambunctious physical comedian.

Tom Biglin was a handsome and commanding presence as Duke Orsino; Tom McNelly's earnest, underplayed Sebastian was loaded with charm; and Borden Hallowes contributed what may be the first trim, sexy Toby Belch. A swaggering accomplice to Johnson's hijinks, they made a winning pair. Charles Tocantins was a riot as the fatuous Aguecheek, and Troy Schremmer was outrageously funny as the bumbling Malvolio - all dithering English eccentricity in his smoking jacket. His appearance in garters was exactly that--women's garters with fishnet stockings. Morry Campbell's Feste was a comic and musical tour-de-force. Campbell's lovely singing and guitar playing were a highlight of the evening.

Noah Brody was a splendidly earthy Antonio, J. Kelly Caldwell a lively, attractive Valentine, and Kevin Myers contributed excellent character work as the Priest and the Sea Captain.

The production was done in modern dress, with playful homage to the 1960s. Kurt Leege's hauntingly beautiful music was a pleasure. Jeremy Chernick's ingenious set evoked a classical idyll and gave the lively cast ample room to run. Amalia Stifter's costumes were serviceable in most cases, and Olivia's wardrobe was gorgeous. Diane D. Fairchild's simple bright lights helped enhance the attractive set and flattered the good-looking cast.

Box Score:

Writing: 2

Directing: 2

Acting: 2

Set: 2

Costumes: 1

Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2000 Julie Halpern