“What is this, Shakespeare?”

TAS Drama students put on a lively re-imagining of one of the world’s most renowned playwrights.

The cast poses for a picture.

While set design and dynamic character portrayals all caught my eye, what struck me most about “Twelfth Night” was the self-awareness that pervaded its core. From meta references to Shakespeare in its script (“Why are you talking like that? What is this, Shakespeare?”) to garish, uncannily accurate ’80s personalities, “Twelfth Night” pays almost-aggressive homage to the history it was built on.

Yet, cast members still find a way to make their stylistic mark on the production. Voices of each character sound uniquely their own, because they are. “We’ve been making changes to the script up until last rehearsal,” says assistant director Mr. Jaami Franklin. “The actors are always asking themselves, ‘How does this phrasing going to represent this character? Which stylistic direction is my character being drawn to?'”

As a result, characters are lively and poignant, lines recalling pieces of ’80s Miami, Shakespearean drama, and everything in between. Malvolio (Adam Maston, ’18), “Twelfth Night”‘s closest approximation of an antagonist, develops a distinctly 17th century air, borrowing catchphrases from the original “Twelfth Night.” Similarly, Sebastian (Eddie Margolis, ’19) repurposes Shakespearean posturing to represent his stiffly noble characterization. Meanwhile, Feste (Max Wang, ’19) and his followers (Tingjen Hsieh, ’20 and Nakiah Pannell, ’20) fully embrace the ’80s: Hsieh and Pannell even adopt Valley Girl accents to match their playful personas.

All of “Twelfth Night” is similar in its mishmash of genres and styles. The production is not a musical, but characters break out into dance and song sporadically throughout the play. It, for the most part, does not use music, but characters occasionally lipsync to ’80s songs to replace Shakespearian soliloquizing. The play’s medium makes every character seem like they’re having an identity crisis. Surprisingly, it works, fitting in perfectly with the original play’s capricious nature. Add that to the intricate plot and constant stream of punchlines, and you’re in for a great night.

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