The Bard Would Give These Comical Players an A
by Mark Lord, qboro contributor | Posted: Thursday, March 30, 2017 10:30 am
They sing, prance, flirt, fall in love, roll on the floor, cross dress, tease, conspire, wear outlandish outfits, plot vengeance — well, you name it, the actors making up the cast of “Twelfth Night,” on delightful display by Titan Theatre Co. at Queens Theatre through April 9, pretty much do it all ... though not necessarily in the order named. And through it all, they appear to be having as grand a time as those watching them cavort.
As if that weren’t enough, while engaging in such diverting activities, they’re also reciting — quite beautifully — the words of William Shakespeare, who wrote this madcap comedy around 1601.
More than 400 years later, there is still much here to create gales of laughter among the theatergoers, as happened quite frequently at last Friday’s opening night.
The story, as is often the case with The Bard, is far too complicated to sum up in a few words, but Titan continues its penchant for presenting abbreviated, tightly-knit versions of the master’s works, and even the younger members of the audience seemed able to follow the action.
For the uninitiated, it all begins when a pair of twins, Viola and Sebastian, are separated in a shipwreck on the coast of Illyria, an ancient region of the Western Balkans near modern-day Croatia.
Viola disguises herself as a man, assuming the name Cesario, and promptly falls for Duke Orsino, who, in turn, is madly in love with a wealthy countess named Olivia.
As fate (and the play’s author) would have it, Olivia, alas, falls in love with the disguised Viola, setting up a triangle that will somehow have to be resolved since this is, after all, a comedy, which would require a happy ending.
What happens in between is no less diverting.
One of the comic highlights, staged with split-second timing by the always dependable director, Lenny Banovez, who doubles as Titan’s artistic director, involves the reading of a letter to a man named Malvolio, a steward in Olivia’s household.
The letter, penned as part of a plot to make the pompous Malvolio (Lloyd Mulvey) believe his mistress is in love with him, does the trick, as its reading finds the four individuals involved in the scheme doing everything they can to remain out of the victim’s sight.
Another standout moment involves the selfsame character, who appears in an outlandish outfit, supposedly one favored by his mistress.
Among the other scene stealers in this stellar cast are several other Titan resident artists. Michael Selkirk makes for a comically tousled Sir Toby Belch, Olivia’s frequently inebriated uncle; Tristan Colton, who in his current disguise, looks uncannily like Alan Cummings, is a silly squire par excellence as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a rich man invited as a suitor to Olivia; and Laura Frye, who can transform herself into a wide variety of characters, here makes the supporting role of Maria, Olivia’s gentlewoman, a standout.
And in a pleasant surprise, the twins at the center of the proceedings are actually played by a pair of identical twins, both of the female variety, leaving Lauren Tothero to assume the role of the mustachioed Sebastian, while Sierra Tothero as Viola/Cesario does a “Victor/Victoria” spin, playing a woman dressed as a man who falls in love with a man.
Other prominent roles have been entrusted to Tyler Moss (Orsino), Tressa Preston (Olivia), Tom Morin, Braden Spear and Ian O’Boyle, all of whom do full justice.
Kudos to costume designer Grae Greer, scenic designer Sarah Pearline, lighting designer Katy Atwell and sound designer Andrew Tarr for enhancing the ambiance with their touches.
When: Fri.-Sat., March 31, April 1, 7 and 8; Sun., April 2 and 9
Where: Queens Theatre, 14 United Nations Ave. S., Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Tickets: $18. (347) 738-5602, titantheatrecompany.com