In Short: Twelfth Night, as interpreted by Filter Theatre company, is a loud and boisterous production that will entertain both Shakespeare fans and Bard beginners. The young and talented cast bring enormous energy and playfulness to this stripped down production which includes almost no period costumes, sets or props but infuses the 90 minutes of stage time with humor, brio and emotional honesty.
This is a production that will leave you enthralled not only with the cast and the play, but with the primacy of live performance to engage and delight. I give Twelfth Night my highest recommendation: SEE THIS SHOW.
Full Review: Seeing Filter Theatre’s ‘Twelfth Night’, it’s easy to forget you are watching a ‘classic’ and conclude that you are at a punk rock show or a improv comedy night. The stage of the Paramount theater seems to have been dressed by absent-minded roadie: tables piled with instruments, random props, and mixing boards whose cables run haphazard across the stage to mic stands ready for use. No effort is made to ground the story in time or place, instead Filter Theatre puts all it’s effort into streamlining the storytelling and creating moments of real connection and relatedness. The entire evening seemed saturated with a sense of ‘Yes, and…’ between the actors, musicians and even the audience.
The cast is small, with most members playing more than one role, which may be efficient but is confusing especially if you aren’t familar with the play. In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to brush up on the plot, by visiting Wikipedia, before seeing the show.
All the members of Filter bring focus and espirit to their roles but Fergus O’Donnell and Sandy Foster shine just a little bit brighter. Ms. Foster reminds me of Scottish Maria Bamford: her body and voice twisting tightly and then exploding at odd angles. Mr. O’Donnell’s Malvolio comes into focus slowly but eventually ‘turns it up to eleven’ and his performance becomes an wild combination of swagger, bravery and a total lack of self-consciousness.
Obviously well-trained and prepared, this production does a great job bringing Shakespeare’s sometimes dense language to life. They are also cleaver enough to accentuate his humor – both high-brow and crude.
The production brims with inventive solutions in economy: minor characters and subplots are dispatched or replaced in ways too clever to spoil and yet the production is smart enough never rush through a dramatic or comic silence. It’s a tribute to the clear thinking behind the production that it can sometimes swing into seeming pandemonium and then spring right back, without missing a beat.
Filter Director, Sean Holmes is also knowledgeable enough to recognize what’s too important to be cut. Songs remain a vital part of ‘Twelfth Night’ and the evening includes several ‘tear-the-house-down ravers’ that remind us the music may be the food of love but it’s also the food of joy, ecstasy, debauchery and sorrow.
The production runs between January 21st and January 30th, 2016.
For tickets and more information, visit ArtsEmerson.org or call 617-824-8400.