As one of the Bard’s most delightful comedies, Twelfth Night couldn’t have a more perfect setting than the courtyard of the Pulse Theatre, unless it be Illyria itself. Given the location of this open-air theatre in midtown Manhattan, with all the 21st-century background noises that go with the territory, Pulse Ensemble Theatre once again came up with a remarkable achievement. A great deal of credit for this production should go to the physically fluid direction of Louis Lopardi. The constant movement of the actors was especially appropriate for a comic fantasy, as opposed to a more realistic, Neil Simon-type of comedy. The Duke of Orsino pines for Countess Olivia and sends his assistant "Cesario" (Viola in male drag) to make known his feelings for her. Viola has a twin brother Sebastian.
Lopardi had the performers suit "the action to the word, the word to the action." There were some lapses, when a couple of the actors tended to "tear a passion to tatters." In a difficult role to sustain, Carlie McCarthy (Viola) tended to screech rather than modulate, project, and enunciate the ends of words; but she displayed a pleasing personality. Michael Gilpin (Sir Toby Belch, delightfully entertaining as a confirmed lush), though possessing a good voice, was constantly over the top. Natalie Wilder (Olivia) was charming and employed an accurate tongue-in-cheek approach. Molly Harrington (the countess’s ladies’ maid Maria) and Steve Abbruscato (Sir Andrew Aguecheek) were consummate in developing their characters. After all, the latter has little depth to work with, in a somewhat shallow English aristocrat. Brian Linden’s Malvolio was magnificent, starting rather humbly, but building to an exaggerated, yet necessary rage at having been ridiculed. Mark Campbell (Orsino) was as commendable as his thankless role allows. Walter Brandes (Sebastian) used a beautifully modulated voice to reach emotional highs and lows. Hal B. Klein's vocal range was more apparent in his singing in the role of Feste, the ever-present Shakespearean fool. Michael Woinoski (Sebastian’s servant Antonio)’s voice was also impressive. Karen Sweeney (Fabian) was adequate, but miscast in an obvious man’s role. Victor Alexander, Nestor Colon, and Jerry Goralnick (1st Officer, 2nd Officer, and Sea Captain/Priest), professionally rounded out an admirable ensemble group.
Terry Leong’s costumes were attractive and accurately reflected the mid-19th century, in which this production was set.
Roger Hanna’s multilevel set, constructed around, behind, and above a real tree, was fabulously ingenious in that it created different settings - the palace, Olivia’s house, and the seacoast. Zhanna Gurvich’s lighting complemented and enhanced the play with pink and beige hues where required.
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Copyright 2001 Sheila Mart