As a playwright, I think I can say with some degree of certainty that Shakespeare himself couldn’t have been more pleased with Burbage Theatre Company’s current production of "Twelfth Night," running through March 18th in Pawtucket than one done 400 years ago at the Globe. Every aspect of this production sparkles like a rare gem polished to perfection.
From top to bottom, the acting is superlative; the delicately delicious love triangle involving Viola, Duke Orsino, and Olivia is beautifully orchestrated by director Jeff Church and played exquisitely by Alison Russo, Leo Castro and Allison Crews respectively. While their hearts may be aflutter, their diction is exact, delivering the Bard’s manifestations of love with style and diligence.
On the comic side of things, Maria (Margaret Melozzi), Sir Toby Belch (Tom Gleadow), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Richard Whitehead), Malvolio (Dillon Medina) and Feste, the Jester (Ben Church) work their magic to eradicate the need for a laugh track. Between the sight gags, the physical comedy, the Bard’s wordplay and some of the finest comic acting you’ll see this side of Broadway, Church’s gifted cadre of comics had the rustic old mill on the banks of the Seekonk River shaking on its foundation from boisterous laughter.
In lesser roles, Marc Mancini was exceptional in the role of Sebastian, Viola’s lost twin. Their reunion late in the play was enough to bring a lump in the throat and tear in the eye of one hardened Vietnam vet. (Don’t ask me how I know.) Jason Quinn as Sebastian’s savior and Orsino’s foe is most excellent in his role as are Gabrielle McCauley as Fabian, and Helena Tafuri in multiple roles and who uses her beautiful voice to open the play with a lovely ballad. Since music is “the food of love”, Church uses it frequently and ingeniously to entertain and move the plot along in this splendid production.
This production of Twelfth Night is enchanting, enlightening and thoroughly entertaining; but perhaps more importantly for a 21st century audience, Burbage Theatre’s take of what is arguably the Bard’s most convoluted comedy is comfortably comprehensible, even for those who may be intimidated by the very idea of Shakespeare. This is a show you don’t want to miss!