Let's shtick together!

Twelfth Night

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Nina Pinchin
Equity showcase (closes Apr. 17)
Thriftshop Theatre Workshop
The Vital Theatre Space
432 W. 42nd St. 3rd fl. (212/726-1475)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

Thriftshop theatre workshop's production of Twelfth Night was entertaining in a silly and sophomoric way. An abridged, shticky version, it was amusing and quickly paced while glossing over much of Shakespeare's verbose wit and leaving out a few of the details of the subplots.

Twelfth Night follows two twins, Viola (Katie Sweeney) and Sebastian (Andy Phelan), who get separated due to a tempest. Landing in Illyria, Viola dresses up as a man in order to become close to Orsino (Michael Glanakos), whom she becomes quite taken with. However, Orsino is infatuated with the lovely, self-centered Olivia (Gina DeMayo), who falls for Viola not knowing she is actually female. Sebastian befriends Antonio (Joe Lattanzi), who saved his life. When he arrives in Illyria, confusion arises since he looks exactly like the male version of Viola.

The major subplot of the show concerns the uppity servant, Malvolio (William DeMeritt). Olivia's cousin, Maria (Christina Lynne Smith), joins forces with Sir Toby Belch (Luke Hancock) and his friend Sir Andrew Aguecheck (played by a puppet named Elian Muneca) to convince Malvolio Olivia loves him. They, with the fool, Feste (Katie Tuminelly)'s, help, make him perform embarrassing tasks while making him believe that Olivia loves him.

One of Shakespeare's renowned comedies, Twelfth Night is a fun show to watch in any form. But this production streamlined the plot so as to make it feel rushed, and added many gags, only some of which worked. But there was a certain campy charm added -- with puppets and carnivalesque music among other things -- that was undeniably fun.

The ensemble was effective -- hamming the show up appropriately to match the production's style. The standouts were Hancock, Tuminelly, and especially DeMeritt. Hancock portrayed an inebriated Toby while manipulating the puppet with bipolar dexterity. Tuminelly was very funny in a myriad of small parts, coming up with different voices for a bunch of them. Finally, DeMeritt stole the show in the second half with his utter flamboyance and style. He nailed the role's snobbish vulnerability.

Pinchin's direction kept the show moving briskly. Sean DeMayo and Chelsea Clarke's scenic elements created a vibrant carnival motif. Finally, David Withrow's costumes spanned the colors of the rainbow quite prettily.

Thus, while not for Shakespearean scholars, Thriftshop Theatre Workshop's production of Twelfth Night still had its moments and appeals to those not so familiar with the show.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2005 Seth Bisen-Hersh