Oh, What a Twelfth Night


May I say to you, "Wow."

I have enjoyed dozens of live theater performances of Shakespeare's plays over the years, and I've seldom been disappointed. But I have never been wowed like I was by Saturday night's performance of Twelfth Night at the Belasco Theater on Broadway.

This “Twelfth Night” is an imported product, from the reconstructed Globe in London. In a setting intended to resemble the Globe, and carefully designed to reflect the way Shakespeare's first audiences would have experienced his plays, this performance couldn't have been more entertaining or enlightening.

The costumes are Elizabethan, each dress the product of ten-to-twenty craftsmen. The music is Elizabethan, played by musician-scholars. The staging is Elizabethan (as far as possible), with facing double-decker galleries on stage. The lighting is--again, as far as possible--Elizabethan, by candlelight. The actors are exclusively male, as Elizabethan actors were. And the frequent interplay between audience and actor is also Elizabethan.

I am often enraptured by performances of Shakespeare's words. But this--this was, to use Viola/Cesario's words, "the nonpareil of beauty." Every performance--from the pitch-perfect Countess Olivia (Mark Rylance) and the delightfully convincing Viola/Cesario (Samuel Barnett) to Olivia's hilarious lady-in-waiting, Maria (Paul Chahidi) and Stephen Frye's portrayal of Malvolio--was unsurpassed. And I've never heard an audience laugh so much at a performance of Shakespeare.

It was an absolute delight. Brilliant. Impressive. Fun and unforgettable.

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