By Holli Harms

Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s most accessible productions. One of his most beloved. 
Marc Palmieri’s brilliant adaptation has trimmed the story down to an hour and forty minutes that is pure story; accessible, lovely and flowing. Director Randall Sharp’s staging is clean and simple, allowing the heart of the story to be presented. The intimate stage at Axis Theater in the West Village is an ideal venue for this production. I, for the first time, really heard the words and the story and was even more wowed by Shakespeare’s twists and turns of plot and dialogue as he dug deeper and deeper trenches of lies and deception. And when you think the mess is too large to fix, he almost surreptitiously rights all the wrongs. I never considered the farcical nature of Twelfth Night and yet that was what Palmieri and Sharp have created.

Though sumptuous in shape and form, everyone is costumed in shades of pale gray (save for Malvolio’s yellow stockings which pop in contrast). I believe that choice is to allow the audience not to be distracted so that we may concentrate on the words and story. The stage is also boarded up in gray, similar to the below decks of a wooden sailing ship. Unfortunately, the monochromatic, rather featureless look of performers AND stage fabricates a sense of dullness, which I know is not the intention.

Regardless of the color scheme, there is a rainbow of color in the music of the play that adds all kinds of texture. Sharp has added to the characters two musicians, Yonatan Gutfeld on piano and cello, and the dulcet tones of Paul Carbonara on guitar. Their addition to the story, to the mood and beauty of words and humor, is like the addition of edible flowers on a delicious cake. The cake’s flavor and texture and appearance are enlightened and brought to another level by the addition.

The ensemble is prodigious, using the space with grace of movement that glides and flies from scene to scene. All strong solid performances. Britt Genelin as Viola and Cesario is fantastic. Her Cesario is a convincing dapper young man with knowledge and understanding of love way beyond his years. The scene she has with her twin brother, Sebastian, (a captivating Eli Bridges) where they discover that the other is still alive, is fantastic, enthralling, touching, and wonderful.

It was a lovely fun night out with one of the Bard’s brilliant stories.

Twelfth Night written by William Shakespeare, director: Randall Sharp, adaptation/dramaturge: Marc Palmieri

With: Spencer Aste; Brian Barnhart; Eli Bridges; Andrew Dawson; George Demas; Katy Frame; Britt Genelin; Robert Ierardi; Brian Parks; Dee Pelletier; Jon McCormick; Jim Sterling
Musicians: Paul Carbonara (guitar), Yonatan Gutfeld (piano/cello)

Creative Team: production stage manager: Regina Betancourt, asst. stage manager: Laurie Kilmartin, light designer: David Zeffren, assistant light designer: Amy Harper, composer/sound designer: Paul Carbonara, choreographer: Lynn Mancinelli, costume designer: Karl Ruckdeschel
asst. costume designer: Jess Gersz, hair and makeup designer: Will Vicari, hair & makeup supervisor: Leone Gagliardi, wigs provided by The Wig Associates, properties designer: Lynn Mancinelli, set designer: Randall Sharp, set construction: Adam Couperthwaite, Jon McCormick
sound engineers: Michael Birnbaum, Chris Bittneri,

Twelfth Night running through  May 25th

Axis Theater 1 Sheridan Square, New York, NY 10014
Tickets HERE

Running Time: One hour forty minutes no intermission