I’ve finally decided that Shakespeare is like George Gershwin. You can do all kinds of riffs and jamming on his work and the results are still distinctively Of The Artist, as well as always interesting and nearly always worthwhile.
Proof of that can be found at the Centene Center, where ERA, Equally Represented Arts, is presenting twelfth period or not another twelfth night. It’s the late 1990’s and we’re in high school. Thankfully, this is not the high school years some of us look back on with vague nausea and a pounding heart. No, this is closer to the high school experience we wish we had. No exams, no trips to the principal’s office, just hanging around with the popular kids and the interesting ones, going from class to class and joking. Oh, the joking.
It’s the basic Twelfth Night story, with character names changed a little. Mal Olio? Sebastian Horowitz? Why not? The dialogue is Shakespeare interspersed with lines which the program credits to various sources from Buffy the Vampire Slayer to American Beauty. It’s way too fun, clearly not taking much of anything seriously.
And yet this cast declaiming Shakespeare isn’t really declaiming it. They speak the speech as though they were, well, teenagers. They understand what all this is about and it sounds like actual conversation, rollicking and denouncing and complaining. If they’re not actually having a good time, you could have fooled me – and most of the other folks at the opening, I suspect. Between the concept, the dialogue and the performance itself, this works for Shakespeare buffs as well as anyone who is looking for something lighthearted and quite different but doesn’t know much about our bud the Bard.
Good work from all the cast, especially the detatched Erin Renee Roberts as Olivia and Francesca Ferrari as plotting Maria. It’s hard to resist Andrew Kuhlman as Toby Belch, especially when he’s trying to persuade folks to cut class. Andrew Aguecheck (Tyson Cole)’s passion for Olivia, so sadly unrequieted is stemmed when his pal Sebastian is actually Amanda Wales, who’s – oh, never mind. Go see it and you can figure things out.
Katy Keating also did the dramaturgy for the show, and Gabe Taylor directed, did sound and production design. There’s a lot of walking in this show, which uses a great deal of the four-story Centene Building and it’s handicapped accessible only to a degree.
A wild night that’s worth the effort.
twelfth period or not another twelfth night
through may 6
Equally Represented Arts
Centene Center for the Arts
3547 Olive St.