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‘Writing’ Exciting at Brown U

Now in its third year, the Writing is Live Festival at Brown University is an exciting opportunity to see a number of works in progress. Most importantly, the Festival will be the only time all of Brown’s graduate students come together on a shared project, featuring six plays by writers in Brown’s graduate and undergraduate theater programs. The Festival fosters the development and evolution of these artists and their works, focusing on collaboration and the meaning of text in performance.

One new play reading will be Liquorland, written and directed by Laura Colella, who says she applied to Brown so she could “shake up” her approach to writing while being exposed to new ideas and influences. “This has certainly come to pass, and another rewarding facet of the program has been the ability to workshop material with actors from the Brown/Trinity consortium, and on occasion, from the ART Institute in Cambridge.”

“Writing Is Live has given me the chance to workshop my play with 10 actors almost daily for a couple of weeks, which is very luxurious,” Colella says. “Working in film, I’m used to rushing. I’ve also always written and directed my films, and have carried that over into play-writing directing. It’s interesting to see how the roles feel a little different in a theatrical context.”

Colella’s Liquorland is an adaptation of a screenplay that she adapted from a book, The Republic of Wine by Mo Yan. “It’s pretty wild, funny and edgy, and reflects on certain anxieties of our time with a sort of warped mirror. It’s about exquisite liquors, damaged heroes, and the decline of western civilization.”

A playwright who will be seeing her play receive a workshop production at the Festival is Margaret Namulyanga, who is from Uganda.

“Coming to Brown andAmericamade me excited about my academic pursuits and nervous at the same time. I was nervous about how I was going to cope in a new environment,” she says, adding that writing at Brown helped her to “break out of my African shell, made me more open minded and enthusiastic about my career as a writer as well as the affairs of the world.”

“The MFA program has offered me a great opportunity to find my voice while I explore and question my position in the world,” Namulyanga says. Of the Festival, she says, “This festival is not only a supportive environment for me as a writer, it’s a window that helps me see what the theater world outside school will be like, while giving me an opportunity to showcase my potential at the same time.”

Her play, He Is Here He Says I Say, was born out of a short poem she wrote during her first year in America. It is, she says, “a response to the inner and subtle consciousness women have about gender-based violence.” She considers it a play that tackles a global problem, violence against women, using local experiences.

“The play’s overriding message is express yourself,” she says. Much of this message is based on what she has seen in her native culture, where women are not often able to speak up, to express themselves. “Words have a disarming power, I believe and I think that is why freedom of speech for women is not entirely granted in some cultures.”

Writing is Live, runs Feb 3-12 at Brown




The Weight of the Scientific World -The How and the Why at Trinity

One trick of great playwriting is crafting a theatre piece that is more than meets the eye. For example, David Auburn’s Proof is a play about math that isn’t about math at all. And Paula Vogel’s How I Learned to Drive is not really about learning how to drive. A similarly great play, Sarah Treem’s The How and the Why, now playing at Trinity Rep, is ostensibly about evolutionary biology and its various theories. But there is much more going on below the surface.

Treem’s play starts quickly, introducing us to Zelda Kahn, a highly respected and revered evolutionary biologist. As she paces her office, it’s clear that she is very nervous about whatever is about to happen. Soon enters Rachel Hardeman, a 28-year-old scientist in the same field who has recently stumbled upon a fantastic and controversial hypothesis. She has a connection to Zelda and as the two of them become acquainted, they take the audience on an emotional roller coaster ride.

Coming from a family of doctors, Treem knows her science and it shows. The play is full of scientific jargon, hypotheses and theories. On the other hand, Treem also has a finely tuned ear for how people talk, interact, respond and react to each other. Her dialogue crackles with energy and is filled with laugh-out-loud humor as well as deeply expressed sadness and fear.

One minor issue in the play itself lies with some of the bombs that are dropped in the second act. Most audience members will see them coming from a long way off – which doesn’t necessarily lessen their impact. They do feel, though, a bit unnecessary, as if Treem started with a one-act and then extended the drama for as long as she could.

For better or worse, Treem must rely on the director and actors to bring her words to life, and here she is in very good hands. Director Shana Gozansky has succeeded in making her influence invisible: there’s never a moment when you might think, “They’re only doing that because the director told them to.” Everything happens so organically and naturally, and feels so real, it is a credit to the director and her two talented actresses.

The first of those is resident Trinity company member Anne Scurria as the elder scientist. While Scurria has had many opportunities to shine over the years, this is another tour de force for her. Her Zelda is a wise and weary woman who has made some very difficult decisions in her life and has been learning to live with those choices ever since. The weight of that struggle is apparent on Scurria’s shoulders, though she keeps things witty, sarcastic and hopeful.

 

As the younger scientist, the strikingly beautiful Barrie Kreinik gives an intensely honest performance. The role calls for her to experience every emotion, from love to hate to joy to despair, and she does it perfectly. Kreinik makes her protrayal seem effortless as she truthfully inhabits the life of a young woman struggling with her own decisions.

The choices made by both women provide so much food for thought, audience members will likely be thinking them over long after the play. They’ll also be considering the play’s many themes, including gender, science, love, family, success, failure, death and survival. While you may not be able to predict how the play will affect you, the reasons why you should see it are numerous.




Carol 2.0

Trinity delivers a timeless yet updated version of the Dickens’ classic

 

Dickens’ A Christmas Carol often gets updated, contemporized and twisted in myriad of ways. It’s been set in modern times, and it’s also been turned into a musical, a cartoon and a movie starring Muppets. Still, sometimes a production comes along that takes it back to its roots, to its original form. And it’s like spending an evening with an old friend, one who tells us the story exactly as Dickens intended it. That’s exactly what you’ll get this season at Trinity Repertory Company’s production of A Christmas Carol.

This adaptation, by Adrian Hall and Richard Cumming, keeps everything firmly in the Dickensian universe. We are dropped squarely into London in 1843 and the story stays true to the age in most every way. We’re also treated to a version that has wonderful musical moments and just enough new or slightly different scenes to keep us on our toes.

Every production relies heavily on its Scrooge and in this regard, Trinity is in excellent hands. Company member Timothy Crowe is brilliant as the old miser, with a kind of gleeful menace and sinister giddiness about his disdain for all things Christmas. When he comes to the inevitable transformation, it’s difficult for any audience member to not smile and laugh right along with him. His joy is completely infectious.

Reliably present are most of the Trinity company members, all doing their usual fine work. It’s always interesting to see different actors inhabit the roles each year. This time around, Mauro Hantman creates a believably meek and timid Bob Cratchit but also gets to steal a moment or two in other parts. All play multiple roles and it’s also fun to see how they differ in each. Rachael Warren, for example, doesn’t offer much as Mrs. Cratchit but she’s fantastic as Mrs. Partlet, a character who doesn’t always get such a great performance. Every ensemble member gets at least one moment like that, a chance to shine, no matter how big or small the role.

When so much works so well, things that don’t work can really stand out. In this case, it’s the scene involving Marley’s ghost, played here by Stephen Thorne. Thorne is a great actor and this version of Marley doesn’t do him justice. It would have been more interesting to see Thorne play dark and serious, something we haven’t seen him do very much. His arrival and departure (both involving Scrooge’s bed) are hysterical, though we’re left to wonder whether that’s intentional.

Other than that ghostly hiccup, the proceedings are handled skillfully all around. The three ghosts are exactly what you expect them to be, with Mia Ellis especially fun as Christmas Past. One nice twist is that Christmas Present is actually played by three actors, aging before our eyes from a teen idol to a bearded old man. It’s an unusual but very nice touch.

As a framing device, the story is narrated by a character called The Reader, who tells the tale to a group of children. The ensemble then brings his tale to life for the enjoyment of all. Director Tyler Dobrowsky, along with everyone involved, allows the story to remain true to itself. So if you’re tired of all the altered and updated versions, or just want to remember how A Chrismas Carol was intended to be, then Trinity’s production is the one to see.




Trinity Rep Season Ends with hit ‘Boeing, Boeing’

It’s always important for a theater season to end on a high note, ensuring that audiences will eagerly anticipate the following year. After a mixed year, with more hits than misses, Trinity Repertory Company ends on a high note with their production of the uproarious comedy, Boeing, Boeing, directed by company member Fred Sullivan, Jr. With this breezy play that flies by like a 747, Sullivan and his perfect cast keep audiences laughing riotously from takeoff to landing.

Bernard, an American living inParis, has devised a way to have three fiancés at the same time. They are all stewardesses, flying for different airlines on different flight schedules, and by keeping close track of their departures and arrivals, he juggles them with precision. An old friend from school, Robert, arrives to visit and things soon begin to fall apart, as each lady of the sky drops in unexpectedly.

Company member Joe Wilson, Jr. plays the lothario Bernard and it’s his best performance of the season. While his style is often too-stiff and overly serious, it works in his favor this time around. This is due to how much fun it is watching him play opposite to that, seeing him completely unravel as his stiffness gives way to panic attacks, freaking out and completely losing his cool.

Bernard’s “international harem” of fiancés includes three women, each with a different nationality and a name beginning with “G.” First, my least favorite is Gloria, the American. Actress Rebecca Gibel is a lot of fun to watch but the character is little more than a stereotype, a loud, obnoxious, brassy and promiscuous American blonde.

Second is the French Gabriella, played by Liz Morgan. Morgan is given a little more to do, as Gabriella gets to have some emotions and is a more fleshed out character. She’s still a little one-note, as “violent tempered” is her major, if not only, personality trait. Still, Morgan is delightful and hilarious in the role.

Finally, easily my favorite of the three is Gretchen, the German. She’s the most like a real person and the least like a caricature or stereotype. She’s also played perfectly by Amanda Dolan, who gives Gretchen some real life and real emotions, ranging from joy to devastation to sadness to love. Of the three, she lights up the stage the brightest.

Bernard is supported by his French maid, Bertha. Not like the other French maids you’ve seen, Bertha is older, world-weary, bitter and jaded. Her caustic and sarcastic sense of humor hysterical as she tries to hold herself together while she’s caught up in the whirlwind. Actress Nance Williamson gets a lot of laugh lines in the role and hits almost every one perfectly.

Truly, the show belongs to Trinity company member Stephen Thorne as Robert. He has shined in supporting roles all season and it’s great to see him given something that allows him to really show off what he can do. Like a young Dick Van Dyke, he has impressive control of his body and ability to use it for physical comedy. At the same time, he’s an immensely talented actor who takes the pilot’s chair in this production and propels it into the stratosphere. Everyone should buckle their seat belts and join him for the ride.

Boeing-Boeing, Trinity Rep,201 Washington St,Providence. www.trinityrep.com Runs thru May 13

 




Trinity Rep Performers Show Great Chemistry

One of the exciting things about theater in rep is experiencing both the differences and similarities between the shows. Trinity Repertory Company’s Three By Three offers area audiences this unique opportunity. The first two shows, Sparrow Grass and Mourner’s Bench, certainly have some sharply contrasting elements, but they deal with many of the same issues. They deal with the ties of family and how those ties can be strained, broken, healed or severed forever.

The “bench” of the Mourner’s Bench is a piano bench. A specific bench at a piano in a particular room, a bench and a room where an unspeakable tragedy once occurred. Through three acts, the audience experiences how that tragedy impacts the lives of people who are connected to the bench, and the house, in different ways. While they have different kinds of connections to it, they are touched very deeply by the memories the room holds for them as well as what the room provides for them in the present.
Playwright George Brant does mine some familiar territory here, that a particular object or place can have profound meaning for people. It might a room in a house, such as the well-known play The Dining Room, to the house as a whole, as in Clybourne Park, which Trinity presented earlier in the season. Still, Brant finds new ways to connect these characters to this place. Some of the relationships are surprising, some of the memories, emotions and responses are shocking.
Along the way, Brant offers much to think about. Themes running through these interconnected stories include love, forgiveness, redemption, justice, revenge, mortality, faith and hope. All heavy stuff but the playwright handles them well, as does Director Michael Perlman and his cast. They trust the writing and each other as they allow the play to move at its own pace, letting them happen naturally.
The cast, all resident acting company members, work nicely together as their characters struggle to face the tragedy they share, whether they all realize it or not. Each of the three acts features just two actors and the pairs have magnificent chemistry during their time together.
Act one features the wonderful Angela Brazil and Mauro Hantman, giving his best performance of the season, as a brother and sister. They experienced the horrible event most directly and it’s a powerful scene as they try to deal with still-lingering repercussions. The second act deals with two aunts of that brother-sister pair, as they try to handle the post-tragedy logistics, such as who will raise the children. Janice Duclos and Phyllis Kay are fabulous together as two more siblings with some serious issues. It’s especially fun to watch Kay play such a different role from one she’s performing at the same time in Sparrow Grass. Finally, act three highlights the couple who purchased the house after the tragedy happened. The power of the place deeply affects them as well in a scene played impeccably by Anne Scurria and Timothy Crowe.
Knowing that many involved with the play are also doing two other shows at the same time makes the whole thing even more impressive. The quality of the production, the play itself and the performances, is sure to bring audiences back for the third and final production of Three By Three in rep.
The Mourners’ Bench, Trinity Rep. 201 Washington St, Providence. Runs thru May 24




Tartuffe

There are likely hundreds of colleges and universities with theater programs in the United States. One has to wonder if locally,University of Rhode Island is at a slight disadvantage. It’s nestled in the woods of South County. It doesn’t have the connection to a professional theater. It’s a University better known for sciences, engineering and the like. Still, while all that may be true, the theater department at URI consistently puts together excellent productions of a very high quality.

Case in point is the current wonderful production of Moliere’s play Tartuffe. Written in 1664, it revolves around the title character, an imposter and hypocrite who pretends to be a pious religious man so he can deceive a wealthy man, robbing him of his house and money. While the head of the household believes Tartuffe’s lies, his family conspires to reveal the truth.

Like any good fast-paced, bawdy, slapstick comedy, it’s all in the timing. Director Tom Gleadow has gotten the timing down right. The physical comedy really works well and as far as I could tell, no opportunity for a comic bit was left unfulfilled. He keeps things moving from beginning to end, the pace never lags and the time flies by.

Gleadow is assisted in this by an ensemble that was clicking on all cylinders at the performance I attended. Watching college actors is always a joy. They are young, enthusiastic and full of energy. They also know each other very well, spending so much time together in rehearsals, classes, other activities, in their dorms and around campus. One could argue that they know and trust each other better than other casts would.

Miles Boucher is among those who get the most stage time, as Orgon, the head of the household who is for a while duped by Tartuffe. He’s a charismatic and impressive actor who can also handle physical comedy with skill. Elmire, his wife who is the object of Tartuffe’s desire, is also excellent at the slapstick comedy while showcasing her acting talent. As the sleazy, smarmy Tartuffe himself, Birk Wozniak does a great job of being creepy and devious, and I mean that as a compliment.

Orgon’s daughter, Mariane, is played by Emily Foster, an actress who sort of typifies the cast. In a word, she is game. Up for whatever the role calls for, and doing it with both energy and a sense of fun. As a whole, the entire group seems to be having a lot of fun, which makes it even more entertaining for the audience.

Technically speaking, the show is not as much fun and doesn’t really live up to the show’s other elements. Costume design is serviceable, save for a few unfortunate wigs and ugly pairs of shoes. Thankfully, the lighting design is unobtrusive, but does have a few neat tricks up its sleeve. As for the set design, the show’s low point for me, it can only be described as lazy.

Still, these young performers bring Moliere’s play, still relevant today in many ways, to exuberant life. One can only hope that they will maintain that exuberance, passion and enthusiasm throughout their future lives and careers, theatrical or otherwise. And that URI will continue to provide them with the opportunity to create great performances like this one.

Tartuffe runs  through March 4 atUniversityofRhode Island.

Visit www.uri.edu/theatre




A Few Good Men

It is perhaps one of the most familiar movie catchphrases in recent history. Jack Nicholson, in full military regalia, sitting in a courtroom, shouting at Tom Cruise. “You can’t handle the truth,” he says. The truth is, the well-known movie A Few Good Men was a stage play first. And it’s back on an area stage at Little Theater of Fall River.

Director Kathy Castro notes that she fell in love with the story when the movie came out. “I thought the story was sensational and so relevant; and the acting was great!  It would be difficult to say how many times I’ve seen it since. Twenty-plus, easily, and each time, I learn something new.  It is a masterful piece of writing, and Aaron Sorkin is a masterful storyteller.”

       A few years ago, Castro learned of the play version and right away wanted to direct it, putting it before the play selection committee in 2010. She notes that the play comes with great name-recognition, partly due to that already-mentioned catchphrase. The playwright also has something to do with it. Castro notes, “In these ensuing 20 years since the film, Aaron Sorkin has also become quite famous through his work on the TV series, The West Wing and his many Academy-Award nominations and wins for film screenplays.  Last year he won for Social Network, and this year he was nominated again for Moneyball.”

Having spent more than a year researching in preparation, Castro says she has read everything she could find on the original production of the play in 1988. She’s also done a lot of research on military protocol. She says, “Sorkin started to write A Few Good Men on the back of cocktail napkins when he worked as a bartender in the Broadway district of NYC in the 1980’s.  His sister, who was a member of the Navy JAG Corps stationed atGuantanamo, told him a story about a hazing incident on the base, and that became the basis for the play.”

“Be it the military or any other large organization, there is a need for constant vigilance about how “business” is done,” Castro says. “It’s very easy for situations to get out of hand because people get out of hand and lose sight of what they should be doing – and why…That’s the real lesson of A Few Good Men:  they challenged the wrong, against big obstacles, and they won!”

In terms of what is morally right and wrong, Castro says there should be no difference in or outside the military. “When people break the law, and justify that their actions are ok – that’s wrong – military included.”

Castro calls her cast and crew a “dream to work with,” including the nineteen actors and one actress. “We’ve been rehearsing twice per week, often for three hours, and that has worked.  We did a military Training Day in January to learn how to stand, salute, march, drill, etc. We have some members of the cast who have served in the Armed Services, and they were very helpful.”

“The show is written like a movie, with very fast scene changes, so that has been a challenge,” Castro says, “But everyone is helping, making suggestions, working as team.  What director could ask for more?”

A Few Good Men runs  March 8 through March 11

at Little Theatre of Fall River

Visit www.littletheatre.net




Sparrow Grass

Trinity Repertory Company has a penchant for thinking outside of the box, for trying things that are new or unexpected. The folks at Trinity seem to like to shake things up a bit, often with success and audience approval. This season, they are presenting a “theatrical event” called Three by Three, with three original plays performed in rotating repertory on the Dowling stage.

           Sparrow Grass, which just opened, is the first of these world premieres. Sitting through it, though, you may feel that you are watching all three plays at once, crammed into one. In fact, there are about five or six different plays fighting for supremacy of this one script.

Simply put, it’s the story of a family who, under a façade of civility and perfection, are really, really screwed up. At play’s opening, Paula, her maid Isabelle and daughter Teddie are awaiting the arrival of the “Colonel,” Paula’s husband who has been serving in a war. At the same time, the prodigal son, Nate, unexpectedly reappears on the scene. The feeling that things are not going to go well is prophetic as the you-know-what slowly and spectacularly hits the fan.

Playwright Curt Columbus throws so much at the fan that it ends up a big mess. Is it a son-father revenge play? A family drama? An anti-war play? A steamy potboiler featuring lots of incest? Is it about the ravages of war? Loss of identity? The darkness underneath the “perfect” family? Likely, it’s all of the above. According to the director notes, it’s a modern retelling of the Phaedra myth, about a mother’s forbidden passion for her stepson. With so much else going on, and so much that is more interesting, the mother-stepson romance just seems superfluous. There are more nuanced and effective ways than this to comment on the state of the family in our society.

Eventually, by the time things got loud and violent, I had stopped caring. And stopped wondering what would, in the end, happen to these people. It’s hard to discern who to root for or to know whose story this really is we’re watching. It’s not helped by the fact that the play is schizophrenic, bouncing back and forth between stories and plotlines, leaving lots of dangling threads unexplained.

Truly, the stellar cast deserved better. Having never seen him in a lead role before, Richard Donnelly was impressive as Ralph, the “Colonel,” who I kept wishing the play was really about. The story of a war veteran, coming home to face what he’s done, dealing with the loss of identity and perhaps the loss of his own mind, would have been a far better play. Phyllis Kay, as Paula, was equally brilliant. Her scenes with Donnelly are great, they have wonderful chemistry together.

Unfortunately, the rest of the cast are mostly wasted. Barbara Meek and Jaime Rosenstein play the stereotypical sassy black maid and angst-ridden teenager, respectively. Tyler Lansing Weaks spends the bulk of the play with no shirt on, most of the time for no reason. His character, Nate, is either maniacal and devious, or he’s completely insane. Like many aspects of these characters, we never get to really understand what’s going on deep down inside, underneath the surface. That, like much of the play, is an unfortunate missed opportunity.

Sparrow Grass runs  through May 13 at Trinity Repertory Company.

Visit www.trinityrep.com




Avenue Q

To say that puppetry as a theatrical art has a long history would be an understatement. An ancient art form, it is believed to have its origins some 30,000 years ago inEgypt. Puppetry was utilized in many cultures and civilizations, including ancientChina, as well asGreeceandRome. In our own country, puppets have been a hugely popular part of our culture, from Howdy Doody toSesame Streetand The Muppet Show. They have been used to entertain and educate, making audiences laugh, learn cheer for many years. Now,CourthouseCenterfor the Arts is bringing to its stage some puppets who bring a very modern take to the puppet genre.

In 2003, puppets took theNew York Citytheater scene by storm when the smash hit Avenue Q opened off Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre. Well reviewed, it was extended multiple times, winning a Lucille Lortel Award for Best New Musical. Later that year, it opened on Broadway, where it ran until 2009, then moving back off-Broadway and spawning a number of national touring productions. During the show’s Broadway tenure, it won the Tony Award for Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book, the Tony “triple crown.”

Avenue Q at the Courthouse will be the show’s firstRhode Islandproduction. It’s story centers on a recent college graduate namedPrincetonwho moves toNew York City, where he is only able to find an apartment on the street of the title. There, he meets a colorful assortment of characters, including Kate, the girl next door, Rod, the Republican, Trekkie, the internet addict, Nicky, the slacker roommate, Brian, the aspiring comedian, and others.

The characters, some of whom are human and some of whom are puppets, sing about many of the problems they face. They are songs about familiar problems, which every audience member has either experienced or knows somebody who has experienced it. Titles include “It Sucks to Be Me,” “My Girlfriend, Who Lives in Canada,” “The Internet is for Porn,” “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist,” and “For now.”

Puppets and humans alike examine these issues and others with wit, sarcasm and more than a little snark. Not appropriate for young children, the show has been critically acclaimed and beloved by adult audiences everywhere. It’s also been described as “an ingenious combination of The Real World andSesame Street” and “…how Friends might be if it had Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy arguing about their one-night stand, but with more angst, expletives and full-on puppet sex.”

Courthouse’s production is directed by Richard Ericson, Director of theCourthouseCenterfor the Arts.  Puppets for the show will be designed and made by local puppet master Nora Eschenheimer, while JonPaul Rainville will be the assistant director and choreographer and the musical director will be Lila Kane.  In addition to the production of Avenue Q, there will be kid-friendly puppet programs during the run of this adult “puppet show”.  The downstairs galleries will display the marionette and puppet stage collection of Dan Butterworth throughout Avenue Q’s run.

Avenue Q runs through March 11

at  theCourthouseCenterfor the Arts

Visit www.courthousearts.org




TRIST provides belly laughs with weekend performances of Twelfth Night

If you’re looking for a little comical pre-game in your weekend romp downtown, allow us to suggest Twelfth Night, produced by the The Rhode Island Shakespeare Theater (TRIST). Directed by Bob Colonna, the play runs at the Roots Cafe onWestminster Streetand play features an excellent cast of capable actors. There’s plenty of opportunity for knee slapping in this fast-paced telling of the classic tale of pursued love and gender-bending.

The play capitalizes the phenomenon of overlooked and unrequited love. The principal characters find themselves yearning for those who do not share their feelings. An intricate web of simmering affection is weaved amid a myriad of subplots which all provide audience members with rich and well-developed characters. In essence, from a plot standpoint, it’s a classic Shakespeare comedy.

And yet there is much new that many will find appealing in this production. Light sabers have been traded for swords (vocal sound effects and all), backwards baseball caps, gold chains and sagging jeans revealing boxer shorts are adorned with modern cheekiness. (No pun intended.) Colonna has provided modern audiences with the rousing levels of accessibility. What’s best, you wont feel pandered to. None of the slapstick routines or larger-than-life character portrayals feel like gimmicks. If anything, the quick pace of the show and the smart use of the space make them feel appreciated.

While most of the cast leans on the younger side of life, there is a comic maturity set forth which any audience member will appreciate. Patrick Keeffe can hardly be older than twenty-years-old, yet he displays firm command of the Olivia (Bonnie Griffin) obsessed Duke Orsino. Expect to see great things out of Keeffe, should he continue to nurture his talent. The same is true for Bonnie Griffin. Displaying perfect control over her character,Griffinearns some of the biggest laughs of the evening. The intimacy of the venue also lends itself to a literal front row view ofGriffin’s expressions, as well. You’ll be able to see up close, in ways not often afforded an audience member, the amount of mental work put in byGriffin.

Of course, what’s a good piece of local theater without some good-natured humor regarding ‘Lil Rhodey. Enter Mike Daniels as the supporting Antonio. Daniels nails down his character with an old school, Federal Hill Italian mobster accent. His performance is truly unbelievable, one on par with those featured on Saturday Night Live. It is only after the lights have come on and the actors leave through the same doors as patrons that you hear the speaking voice of Daniels- one that bears no resemblance to the quick-witted impersonation delivered moments prior.

Like any piece of community theater, audience members must wade through the obligatory robotic renditions of people like Kathleen Bebeau. Do not fret, potential theater goer, as there is a silver lining, and her name is Meryn. Playing Feste, Meryn Flynn is out-of-this world amazing. The set of pipes on this young lady are showstoppers, and Colonna lets her showcase them. After seeing this production of Twelfth Night, you will wonder who else could possibly play the role of fool with such authority and command of character. In a way, seeing Meryn shine in this role almost sets you up for disappointment for future productions. She truly comes across as that unbelievable.

All told, the benefits of spending your early evening soaking up a few good laughs before hitting the bars are countless. Be sure to pen this in on your weekend to-do list.

Twelfth Night runs through March 10

at the Roots Cafe.

Visit www.rootscafeprovidence.com