Logan Fringe Arts Space: Trinidad Theatre

Remaining Performances (tickets available here):

Saturday, July 18 at 12 p.m. Tuesday, July 21 at 9:45 p.m. Thursday, July 23 at 6 p.m. Saturday, July 25 at 8:15 p.m.

They Say: Six actors and two musicians on a bare stage tell Shakespeare’s classic tale of shipwrecked twins on the carnivalesque island of Illyria. Delight, deceit and devious deeds ensue. This frenetic, visually arresting production features imaginative storytelling and an original score.

Anne Larimer’s Take: In a traditional musical, I tend to view the transition from book to song as the moment where the character can no longer express emotion in just words. They’ve tried to vocalize their feelings — be it love, comedy, devastation — through prose, and it just won’t do. Here lies the rub with Twelfth Night: A Musical Remix. They never quite convinced me that the songs – which are Shakespeare’s lines set to lovely original tunes by Jim Clemens – are vital for these characters in these moments.

It’s not all singing, however, and the score — played on piano by Clemens and on violin by Jacinda Stahly — beautifully complements the lyrical quality of Shakespeare’s words in the ever-popular Twelfth Night. Director and Adaptor Justin Poole, an Assistant Professor of Theatre at Eastern Mennonite University and Artistic Director of Wanderlust Theatre Company, the two groups that came together to create this work, has trimmed the play from three hours to a snappy 71 amusing minutes.

The cast has also been trimmed, and the six actors are on stage the whole time, frantically changing costumes and physicalities between scenes. The rush to pull on pants — or toss a hat to an audience member for safekeeping — adds to the frenetic quality of the show, which operates on a high level of energy that makes for some truly hilarious line-readings but masks some of the more poignant moments. The two young female leads — Makayla Baker as Viola (and Maria) and Clara Bush as Olivia (and Antonio) — are at times able to counter the mania with too-brief moments of truth. The juxtaposition of genuine heartbreak and love played against foolery and madness are what make Twelfth Night’s text so timeless, and I wish they’d taken their time with the former.

When six actors are playing twelve roles, something is bound to get lost in the fray. The delightfully manic energies of Sean Byrne’s Sir Toby and Garrett Schwalbach’s Malvolio can’t help but bleed into their performances as Duke Orsino and Sebastian, respectively. But I wouldn’t trade anything for the drunken ramblings of a plotting Sir Toby, or the moment when the victim of his plot — a preening and randy Malvolio — descends upon his mistress Olivia proudly decked out in cross-gartered yellow stockings (“a colour she abhors”). Schwalbach brings a truly original malevolent energy to Malvolio — a challenge with a text that has been performed countless times in its 413-year-old history.

Holly Hanks is a standout as Feste — Shakespeare’s wise fool — with her strong lower register and knowing fourth-wall-breaking winks to the audience. Shannon Dove as Sir Andrew has a gift for physical comedy and employs it liberally. Contributing to the charming clownishness of the production, Poole has painted the actors’ faces a mime-like white with splashes of color, and it’s entertaining to see the mechanics of Ama Ansah and Holly Labbe’s bright costumes as the actors speed through their scene changes.

See it if: You’ve always been curious about behind-the-scenes costume changes and prefer them front-and-center.

Skip it if: You like your Shakespeare au naturel.

Photo courtesy of Wanderlust Theatre Company and Eastern Mennonite University