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.