Tuesday, June 8, 2010

"Greatness thrust upon them"

Fiasco Theater's Twelfth Night was the liveliest, most entertaining play we've seen yet. It was an unbearably sweltering night when we saw the production, and audience members were flapping away with fans and programs to provide a little relief, but it didn't detract a hair from the boisterous, funny, and at times touching performance. The actors knew how to use the full range of their vocal capacities, but didn't just yell their way through the lines. Haas Regen lustily caroused as Sir Andrew, Ben Steinfeld sang gorgeous surprising ditties, and Elizabeth King-Hall was devious and fetching as the serving maid Maria. I could go on. Each actor brought vitality and sheer joy to their parts--even Paul L. Coffey who got stuck with the role of the gullible and foolish Malvolio.

The program tell a story about this cast which reveals almost universal participation in the Brown/Trinity graduate acting program. Though it's unclear when they graduated, what it suggested to me was that the actors and directors (Noah Brody and Ben Steinfeld) have spent a lot of time thinking about how to do contemporary theater well. Part of it involved, perhaps counter-intuitively, being relaxed. No difference was made between the stage and the theater and actors seamlessly transitioned from standing around during intermission and chatting with one another to performing the play's second act. They pulled off audience participation (we actually sang a round together!) without any of the usual reluctance that frequently occurs in such instances. And despite all the fun they seemed to be having, the gentle themes of the play--estranged siblings, unrequited love--were so delicately handled, waves of admiring awe rippled through the audience at the brief moments when there was a lull in the laughter.

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