A Twelfth Night for Today’s Gender Bending Times
- Twelfth Night
- by William Shakespeare
- Shakespeare in Delaware Park
- July 23-August 16, 2015
- Twelfth Night
- by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare in Delaware Park’s choice to mount an all-male production of Twelfth Night is billed as an homage to tradition for the company’s 40th anniversary season in Buffalo, NY. This gender-bending play, however, is perfect for today, what with recent historic events and ongoing discussions of gay and trans rights. Whatever the backdrop, though, this production directed by Steve Vaughn is a delight.
Between the laughs over the antics of the many fools and the awkwardness that arises when a male actor plays a woman masquerading as a man who falls in love with another man, the audience ends up doing a lot of thinking. That’s especially so when two male actors lock lips for lingering kisses, as they do again and again.
The men playing female roles play them straight – that is, they don’t do over-the-top drag, but act earnestly as women (kudos to wig designer Mary McMahon Jakiel, whose realistic work made the actors’ jobs a little easier). Only occasionally does SDP favorite Tim Newell wink at the audience, as he plays the Countess Olivia, emerging from familial grief to become a love-sick kitten trying to snag her claws on Viola/Cesario. When Newell picks up his skirts to run off stage, it’s with perfect Elizabethan feminine delicacy. His sigh of delight and lust when he first sees the “man” he’s been chasing and the man he’s married are two people is hilarious. Likewise, Adam Yellen’s Maria (servant to Olivia) is perfectly wench-like. He’s saucy and able to suffer and rise above the fools in the play without losing feminine sensibilities.
And then we have Viola, the female half of a co-ed pair of twins who makes her way in a strange land by dressing as a young man. Upon first sight, actor Jordan Louis Fischer is a credible woman with flowing blond hair. As Viola pretending to be Cesario, though, it’s as if the character becomes an overtly gay man, losing the some of the complex layers of gender identity. Cesario’s job is to woo Olivia on behalf of his master Orsino (Chris Hatch), which is quite complicated since Olivia falls for the messenger and Viola/Cesario has fallen completely for Orsino. Fischer is best in the cat-and-mouse game with Newell, always delicately trying to plead his master’s case while eluding the subject of his master’s ardor. When his Viola/Cesario is tense, she clamps her knees together, then remembers to spread them apart in a more manly way of sitting.
It would be good to see Orsino suffer more for his love and squirm more when he realizes he’s growing overly attached to his male servant. But this is a minor flaw in a very enjoyable production.
All the love intrigue becomes something of a subplot when the clowns are sent in. They’re all too good to name a standout. The sheer number of fools in Twelfth Night makes it hard to tell them apart in some productions. Not so here, as the actors’ abilities, their varied physiques and costuming signatures all make each distinct. Take Malvolio (Gregory Gjurich), Olivia’s steward, who is dressed with Puritan severity that underscores his self-rightious behavior. There’s a wonderful scene when he’s reading the ersatz letter Maria has written him as Olivia suggesting he woo his employer. When Malvolio reads the instruction to smile more, Gjurich declares, “I will smile! I will do everything that thou wilt have me,” with an intense grimace that passes for a smile.
Meanwhile, Sir Toby Belch (a spot-on performance by the experienced Norman Sham), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (played with great dimness and sympathy by David Lundy) and Fabian (Justin Dimieri) bring to mind the Three Stooges as they creep behind him to eavesdrop, only partly hidden by movable trees. When Malvolio starts to imagine how he’ll curtail Toby’s drunken exploits once he weds Toby’s niece, it takes all of Lundy’s and Dimieri’s apparent strength to rein in the charging bear that Toby becomes for a moment. The scene builds to a dynamic and very funny crescendo, carrying the audience into intermission with a chuckle. The portly Sham portrays Toby as a Falstaff with more gas, jollity, and cleverness. Luncy’s Aguecheek, in a copious wig, blue patterned coat and foreshadowing yellow cross-gardered stockings, is wonderfully overdressed for the party he always seems to be having in his head as a result of drinking too much.
Stephen Wisker’s Feste is a bit of a surprise, on account of his leading-man looks and height. He’s a musical fool on top of being a wise and witty one. In fact, the ensemble’s all-male chorus is quite a treat, sometimes acapella, sometimes accompanied just by Feste’s guitar and other times by cello (Jay Wollin) and violin (Lucas DeNies.) Sound designer and composer Tom Makar comes through again with sprightly music that keeps the scene changes moving.
Costume designer Ken Shaw and his crew have done a remarkable job of fitting the attire to the characters so well that the audience sometimes loses sight of the costumes. On the other hand, through identical golden outfits and blond wigs, as well as casting that selected two actors with similar builds, there’s a moment when Sebastian (PJ Tighe) appears for the second time and it takes a few moments to realize this is Sebastian and not his twin. Well done.
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BUFFALO, NY (WKBW) – This is the 40th anniversary of Shakespeare in Delaware Park. Record-breaking crowds turned out for “Romeo and Juliet” and now it’s time for their second production of the summer, “Twelfth Night.”
Linda talks to Tim Newell who is co-starring in the show and Lisa Ludwig who co-stared in “Romeo and Juliet.”
This romantic comedy features an all-male cast and runs through August 16th.
Performances are held every evening except Mondays and begin at 7:30pm.
Shakespeare in the Park reaches over 40,000 audience members each season and all the performances are free to the public.
**ALL MALE CAST?
**FREE, ENTERTAINING 40,000 EACH SEASON
**EVERY NIGHT BUT MONDAY.
*STARTS AT 7:30… GET THERE EARLY
**RUNS THURSDAY, JULY 23RD TO AUGUST 16TH!
THANK TIM AND LISA
SHAKESPEARE IN THE PARK DOT ORG
TWELFTH NIGHT OPENS THURSDAY
AS SHAKESPEARE IN DELAWARE PARK CELEBRATES
THE 40th ANNIVERSARY SEASON OF FREE THEATRE
July 20, 2015 Buffalo, NY … Weather was not always cooperative for Shakespeare In Delaware Parks performances of ROMEO AND JULIET, however we are pleased to report reaching record breaking crowds for the closing week with perfect Buffalo weather conditions. SDP continues to celebrate their 40th Anniversary season of FREE Shakespeare with the second summer offering of TWELFTH NIGHT. This romantic comedy features a star studded all male cast including Tim Newell, Norm Sham, Chris Hatch, PJ Tighe and Greg Gjurich. Director Steve Vaughan will bring this humorous tale of mistaken identities to life opening July 23rd.
Shakespeare in Delaware Park reaches over 40,000 audience members each season and is proud to be celebrating 40 amazing years of high-quality professional theatre that remains FREE to the public. TWELFTH NIGHT runs July 23rd –August 16th. Performances are held every evening (except Mondays) at 7:30 p.m. Shows take place on Shakespeare Hill in Delaware Park, next to Hoyt Lake behind the Rose Garden, off Lincoln Parkway near the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Further information may be obtained at www.shakespeareindelawarepark.
Posted By: Lauren Kirchmyer June 29, 2015
By: Lauren Kirchmyer
When you think of William Shakespeare, what comes to mind? “Tradition,” said Lisa Ludwig managing director and sometimes actress at Shakespeare in Delaware Park.
Though much of his work was created in the late 1500s and early 1600s, Shakespeare’s work continues to be read and discussed throughout the world today. But according to Ludwig, Shakespeare is meant to be seen and heard, not read.
“It’s one of those things people have to experience for themselves,” Ludwig explained. “People from high school are daunted by Shakespeare, but if you watch you’ll have a new understanding of it. That’s what makes it so special.”
This summer, Buffalonians will have the opportunity to experience two of Shakespeare’s more familiar works – “Romeo and Juliet” and “Twelfth Night.”
The tragedy of star-crossed lovers Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet will be performed through July 12. “It’s going really well,” Ludwig said about the performances thus far. “It’s a favorite of people because they are familiar with it. They feel they can relate to it.”
But Ludwig is especially excited the comedy “Twelfth Night” is part of the organization’s 40th summer season. “In our 40 years we never did an all-male version of a show,” she said. Back in Shakespeare’s time, only male actors performed his works, including the multiple female roles. “We thought doing an all-male version would be an exciting way to celebrate.”
Performances begin at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. “There’s nothing like being outdoors in the beautiful Olmstead Park,” Ludwig said. “To look out at the stars speaking words of Shakespeare, it’s quite exhilarating. There’s nothing quite like it.”
And Ludwig finds families returning year after year. “It becomes a tradition for people. It’s like a community picnic,” she said. “Sometimes it’s someone’s first, or only, experience with theater because it’s all they can afford.”
Though the performances are free, the organization recently launched an annual campaign. At each show, spectators will have the opportunity to donate towards the $1.3 million stage that will, hopefully, go up next summer.
“We’ve had the stage for 20 years, so it’s made of things used 20 years ago such as very heavy steel,” Ludwig shared. “After years of wear and tear the pieces don’t quite fit together like they used to.”
The new stage will be easier to take down and put up, and will give the directors three different configurations to work with for each show. The campaign will also expand space for dressing rooms, concessions, on-site equipment, prop storage and more. According to the campaign’s brochure, the project will improve the overall experience for the audience, actors and crew members.
To learn more about the 40th summer season of Shakespeare in the Park or their campaign, call 856-4533 or visit www.shakespeareindelawarepark.org.
Lauren Kirchmyer is the entertainment reporter for BuffaloScoop.com. If you have a story idea, please email her at email@example.com.
Forever Young – Buffalo Spree
Enjoying Life Over 50 in WNY
BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) – Linda meets with Peter Palmisano, who plays as Lord Capulet in Shakespeare in Delaware Park, and April Diodato, the managing editor of Forever Young.
To keep up to date with the Forever Young series, keep reading Buffalo Spree.