What do you get when you mix a group of drunkards, dolts and damsels, all presented with shameless skill? A hilarious yet vindictive performance of one of theatre’s most notorious figureheads’ productions.
Long Island City theatre hot spot The Secret Theatre — continually responsible for hosting a cornucopia of outstanding entertainment — debuted the Queens Players’ version of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, a reworked version of the timeless classic.
“The play has just as much drama as comedy,” confessed director Alberto Bonilla. “It is about the two sides of love — what we think we love and the reality of what is actually there.”
Living out the production’s humorous side, the troupe carefully created a comically chaotic climate while interacting with the audience mid-show. Using cue cards, the actors taught the reluctant-yet-interested onlookers a song. While on stage, the cast served beverages, hurled themselves across the aisles and begged for cash.
Shakespeare’s original story is a merry celebration connected to Yuletide’s twelfth night, filled with the immortal bard’s frequent ironies — mistaken identities, gender confusion, unreturned affections, broad physical humor and witty dialogue. The actors, many of whom boasted impressive professional credentials, gave rousing and convincing performances, combining to create a wonderfully irreverent show.
According to Secret Theatre artistic director Richard Mazda, the classic stage show becomes modern with the addition of elements of the clown. Bonilla, who has a background in the art of physical humor, hoped to update the performance for today’s audiences, who may not be fully swayed by Shakespeare’s amusing style of comedy. Mazda said that the Queens Players performed nearly 25 Shakespearean shows before the remaking of Twelfth Night. The troupe took nearly a year hiatus before deciding to come back in a major way.
“They wanted to come back with a stamp that says ‘if you want good quality theatre, come to us — we just wanted to make a strong statement,’” said Mazda.
The original story follows a group of central characters and their missteps and triumphs on the road to love. Olivia, the stunning and somewhat vain duchess, is flawlessly portrayed by Elizabeth Inghram. She falls for Viola, who is disguised as a man. Viola, a challenging, gender bending role, is conquered by Kathryn Finch. Other characters include lush Sir Toby, played by Thom Brown, his comrade Sir Andrew Aguecheek, played by John Cormier, as well as Jester Feste, played by Jonathan Emerson — the shameless, clever clown who completes the trio with charm and cunning. The actors demonstrated flawless comedic timing and natural, effortless chemistry — always a pleasure to watch.
Additional reporting by Alexa Altman