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Theatre Review (Pasadena): Twelfth Night by Shakespeare at the New Noise Within

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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.

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About Robert Machray

  • Wayne Myers

    I can understand your not longing to see another “Twelfth Night,” since it’s most often staged (as it unfortunately apparently is in A Noise Within’s case) as a farce comedy. But why would Shakespeare, at the height of his dramatic powers, write, as “Contested Will” author James Shapiro put it, a play that is a “throwback” to early Shakespeare comedy? Because he didn’t. “Twelfth Night” is a highly sophisticated, intensely erotic play, not the early Shakespeare many directors assume it to be. Look at the plays that surround “Twelfth Night”: “Hamlet,” “Troilus and Cressida,” “Measure for Measure,” “All’s Well That Ends Well,” “Othello,” and “King Lear,” with its dark and sensual Goneril-Edmund-Regan love triangle. They are all extremely sexual plays, and “Twelfth Night” is not the exception among them. Consider also the central plot of “Twelfth Night”: A young woman disguises herself as a man and soon finds herself desired, in that guise, by both a duke and a countess. If, acting on her passion as a woman, Viola kisses Orsino, as far as he knows, he’s just been kissed by his male page. All the other characters see her romantic actions as those of a young man. If Viola kisses Olivia, Olivia thinks it’s a boy-girl kiss but finds out otherwise when Viola drops her Cesario guise at the end. The happiness of the involved couples may very well depend on what sexual compromises they are willing to make at the end, given the sexual identity crises that have come before–consequences of Viola’s decision to disguise herself as a man. Now, is ANW capable of staging an erotic “Twelfth Night?” Yes, I think it is, and it really should have known better than to have mounted a “silly,” farcical “Twelfth Night.” Wayne Myers, author of “The Book of Twelfth Night, or What You Will: Musings on Shakespeare’s Most Wonderful (and Erotic) Play.”

  • robert machray

    Late director Garland Wright was well aware of these ambiguities and utilized them in his signature productions of this play in which I participated twice.

  • Wayne Myers

    Thank you, Robert. I’d appreciate it if you could point me to reviews and other information about the Wright “Twelfth Nights.” Were they staged at the Guthrie? Any of your production recollections and insights would be useful, since my own understanding of the play is always evolving. Interesting that you should mention “ambiguities,” which are very much at the heart of “Twelfth Night.” I think directors sometimes try hard to clarify the sexuality of the principal characters for audiences, but, in my opinion, it works best when such things–even at the end–are left unanswered, preserving the theme of “doubleness.”

  • valorieesquilona

    I am a freelance stage actress too and I always dream of becoming a theater actress and perform one of the characters of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. I am so glad to know that there are still theater groups that perform it live on stage today. Long live Shakespeare!

  • r machray

    Garland produced this play in many venues. it was his signiture piece. try the Lion Theatre, Gutherie, and I think the Shakespeare festival in ct when it existed. sad to say Garland was taken from us far too early

  • afaceristonline

    very nice post