By David Walters
You’re in luck, you’ve got another chance, but only until February 19th so please hurry. In fact, don’t even read the rest of this review; click here and get a ticket. Honestly, do it. You will thank me.
Returning but briefly, this gem, one of New York’s most celebrated productions of 2022, Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is at the NYU Skirball theatre brought back by the Classical Theatre of Harlem.
A diamond has many facets and it always amazes me that with Shakespeare, new facets are continually being revealed. This production is a joy with surprises that reflect a sun’s brightness and an ocean depth at every turn. Each scene is a new reveal of phenomenal characterization by an ensemble that, as a whole, if I were to use the word talented would be dulling in its description of what they are gifting their audience. Each cast member, from the lead to the smallest role, is integral to the story and each has found their place to contribute and make their mark. I could give high praise to each actor for the gold that they bring to the stage, but suffice it to say, it is stupendous ensemble work all around.
My highest accolades though will have to go to the director Carl Cofield, the Associate Artistic Director of the Classical Theatre of Harlem. He has not only assembled the talent but has guided them in a cohesive blending that provides an evening of laughter, joy, constant surprises, and amazement. His creative staging and imaginative use of the script bring about a way of storytelling you will remember for a long time.
The plot in a nutshell, in case you don’t remember from school: Twelfth Night was written as a holiday entertainment where musical asides and wild chaos in shared stories reigned. Leaving a lot out, it’s about twins Sebastian and Viola who think the other drowned after being separated in a shipwreck. Viola disguises herself as a young man, Cesario, and falls in love with Duke Orsino who she/he is wooing Countess Olivia for. After meeting Cesario, Countess Olivia falls in love with him/her thinking she is a man. Unbeknownst to Viola, Sebastian ends up in the same environs meeting the same cast of characters and chaos reigns as none can tell the two apart. Twins, mistaken identity, love, what more could you want in a ribald Shakespearian comedy.
I will be using this production as the high bar for any future Twelfth Night I see.
The cast includes Walé Adebiyi, J’Laney Allen, Mazvita Chanakira, William DeMeritt, Carson Elrod, Denzel Fields, Kat Files, Israel Erron Ford, Allen Gilmore, Dennzyl Green, Alisa Gregory, Brynlie Helmich, Madelyn LaLonde, Anthony Lalor, Zoë Lishinsky, Cassandra Lopez, Collin McConnell, Chivas Michael, CB Murray, Othello Pratt, Jr., Christina Sajous, Donathan Walters, and Kara Young.
The creative team, helmed by director Carl Cofield, includes associate director & choreographer Tiffany Rea-Fisher, co- fight directors Rick Sordelet & Christian Kelly-Sordelet, scenic designer Riw Rakkulchon, costume designer Mika Eubanks, lighting designer Alan C. Edwards, composer & sound designer Frederick Kennedy, projection designer Brittany Bland, properties designer Samantha Shoffner, hair & make-up designer Earon Nealey, production stage manager Jessica Forella, stage manager Chris Steckel, and assistant stage manager Michael George.
As always, this is just one person’s opinion in a world filled with them.