The opening of a new theatre is something to celebrate, and Julia Rodriguez-Elliot and her husband Jeff Elliot have succeeded where others have failed. After some 20 years of producing quality classical theatre in a Masonic Temple in Glendale they managed to forge a loyal audience that was willing to participate in their dream of having a permanent professional theatre. Through persistence and endless fundraising in this austere climate, they raised the needed money and built a state-of-the-art theatre, a 33,000-square-foot space, enough for rehearsal room, dressing room, office space, and classes and outreach. The theatre seats 283 patrons and on opening night on Saturday October 29th, there wasn’t a seat to be had in this glorious space.
The opening show for this, their 20th season in their new home, they chose one of Shakespeare’s celebratory works, Twelfth Night, set in an exotic pre- Castro Cuba. That setting does little more than provide an excuse for intoxicating carnival music and lots of hip movement by the ladies in the cast. The simple but serviceable set is by the talented Kurt Boetcher with costumes by Angela Balogh Calin and lights by Ken Booth. Julia Rodriguez-Elliot directs with her husband Jeff playing the choice role of Malvolio. Robertson Dean makes a silly but romantic Orsino, Abby Craden is a sexy and aggressive Olivia, Jeremy Rabb the nerdy and very funny Andrew Aguecheek, Apollo Dukakis the drunken and rather mean Toby, and the always wonderful Deborah Strang is Maria. Angela Gulner is a lovely Viola and a taller Max Rosenak her twin brother. Their recognition scene is quite moving. Jeff Elliot grabs hold of Malvolio and wrings every laugh and ever tear from his scenes. The audience loved him.
Twelfth Night is not a play I generally long to see. I have been in it three times and viewed it another 10. However this production proves there is always something new to be learned, albeit in a line reading, a gesture, or a music cue. The most important event of the evening however was the opening of this marvelous new theatre. I wish them another 20 years and more of the success they have so earned through their love of theatre and sheer determination. Twelfth Night will play at the New Noise Within at 3352 East Foothill Blvd. in Pasadena until Dec. 16.