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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Shakespeare, alive and well

Published: November 11, 2005
Section: Arts, Etc.

Last weekend, Hold Thy Peace rocked Schwartz Auditorium with its production of William Shakespeares classic comedy Twelfth Night, directed by Stacy Lea Horowitz 07 and Sara Tess Neumann 07.

Twelfth Night is a play rooted deeply in the tradition of situational comedy. Orsino (Erik Potter 07) loves Olivia (Kate Roller 09), but she refuses to answer his courtship because she is mourning the death of her brother. Shipwreck survivor Viola (Leila Alciere 09) comes to the town and takes a job working for Orsino (in the assumed male persona of Cesario) and falls in love with him. While delivering his tidings of love to Olivia, however, Olivia falls in love with the guise of Cesario. In the meantime, Olivias kinsman Sir Toby Belch (Adam Ross 07), her servent Maria (Allie Winer 08), the fool Feste (Beth Seltzer 07), and Sir Tobys friends Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Aaron Finegold 09) and Fabian (Chavah Levine 06) undertake to make a fool of Olivias puritanical steward Malvolio (Brenda Green-Sisson 09) by convincing him that she secretly loves him. Sir Toby, Fabian, and Maria enjoy further sport at the expense of Sir Andrew by convincing him that he too has a chance to win Olivias heart. Furthering the complications, Violas twin brother Sebastian (Vicki Schairer 09) also arrives in town, setting off a series of misunderstandings after being mistaken for Cesario. Did everyone get that?

Horowitz and Neumann opted to reset the play to modern times as an exploration of the American fascination with celebrities. While an unusual choice, it proved effective. The costumes were enjoyable, and replacing the priest with an Elvis impersonator (Elyssa Kanet 08) was both a hilarious touch and a clever crack at Las Vegas style weddings. This stylization also crept into the Fools songs;

Seltzers first tune was sung in pop style, complete with pop style dance moves. Its surprising how well that worked with Shakespeares words! Also, the sound for the show (designed by Patrick Hume 07) was first-rate. The pensive piano music underscoring Orsinos monologue about love was perfectly chosen, and the fun love-themed music during scene changes really kept the mood of the play in place, with how long some of the scene changes ran.

The play truly hinged on Rosss fine performance in the role of Sir Toby, as the more comic scenes generally focus on his pranks on Malvolio and Sir Andrew. In his two scenes as a drunk, he drew a laugh from the audience nearly every time he opened his mouth, while he developed obvious chemistry with fellow pranksters Levine, Finegold, Seltzer, and Winer. Especially noteworthy was the scene in the garden where Malvolio finds the forged letter proclaiming Olivias love while Sir Toby, Fabian, and Sir Andrew alternately chip in exclamations regarding Malvolios behavior, shush each other, and try hiding among the audience and behind small potted plants. On that note, Levine and Finegold also deserve recognition for their performances. Finegold, in the role of the educated idiot Sir Andrew, did a wonderful job playing up his characters lack of common sense to a comic degree, while Levine complemented Finegold and Ross very well with her physical presence and energy. Her work in the scene where she repeatedly tries (and fails) to take a letter from the Fools pocket was also well-done. Seltzers Fool was also very strong;

her crazy but often wise doublespeak often elicited laughter from the audience and her singing was most enjoyable.
The higher-class characters also turned in top-notch performances. Potter exhibited great control of voice and body as the brooding Orsino, and his monologue to Viola (dressed as Cesario) about love was probably the most beautiful moment in the play. Rollers comic timing as Olivia was completely spot-on, which is impressive given how much more of the humor is focused on the lower characters. Alciere developed strong chemistry with her castmates, a crucial achievement as the key character of the upper-class love triangle, and she also used her facial expressions very effectively.

After the misfortune of having to cancel last semesters planned production of The Comedy of Errors, Hold Thy Peace has bounced back with a very strong production. Thus, the Bard of Stratford-on-Avons poetry continues to thrive on this campus and one can hardly wait to see what they are planning for next semester.
For those bored looking for something to do, this weekend looks to be another busy weekend on the Brandeis theatre scene. Tympanium Euphorium will be presenting the musical The Umbrellas ofCherbourg in the Shapiro Theatre, while Molieres classic comedy The Learned Ladies will be performed in Spingolds Merrick Theater.