Pelvic Thrusting With Shakespeare
Published: Sunday, November 22, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 20:01
Pelvic thrusting, fart jokes, and rockabilly helped translate Shakespeare to a modern college audience in Robsham Theater this weekend. In Boston College Theater Department's production of the comedy Twelfth Night, or What You Will, theater professor Scott Cummings crafted a balance of tradition and exploration. Coupling acting loyal to the original with modernized, eclectic costumes and live, guitar-laden music, from Thursday through Sunday Twelfth Night roused Robsham with moments of hilarity, moments of inspiration, and a few moments of boredom.
After a roll of thunder and lightning, articulated through flashing lights across the stage and rolling roars through the PA, a gentle guitar strums in the corner to begin the play. Chris Renna, the sole musical performer and composer of the production, plays a lingering, twangy, '90s style guitar tune, reminiscent of a Jeff Buckley song. As the guitar grows louder, Orsini, the Duke of Illryia, played by the emphatic Seth Byrum, A&S '11, saunters onto the stage in a shimmering blue and gold silk robe – a shining parody of royalty. Absorbing the tune for a moment, Orsini longingly proclaims the timeless line "If music be the food of love, play on." So ensues the song-driven comedy.
Like most Shakespearian comedies, Twelfth Night follows an improbable romance. Viola, played by the wide-eyed and earnest Kasey Brown, A&S '12, shipwrecked on the isle of Illria (near Greece), falls for Orsini. Things get sticky when Orsini's other potential lover Olivia, played by Lindsey Simcik, A&S '10, falls for Viola, mistaking her for a man in her gentlemanly disguise. Written over 400 years ago, it's no spoiler to spill that in the end, Orsini and Viola get hitched. But the plot felt a little dry and trite to the 2009 audience. Strict loyalty to the lines probably marked the most uninteresting aspect of the play.
The acting of the subplot characters, however, seized the show. The town drunkard Sir Toby Belch, played by the boisterous, animated, diabolical Steve Conroy, A&S '10 (who starred in Angels in America and Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf? last year), granted the most uproarious performance of the play. From the moment he enters the stage as a silhouette, cackling as he fornicates with Maria, played by the affable yet scheming Maggie McNeil, A&S '11, Belch captivated the audience – a crowd that packed the theater throughout the weekend. Stumbling, bumbling, and mumbling onto the stage in a fat suit, Carrot-top-like hair, while cradling a bagged bottle of booze, Belch boasted more presence than anyone on the stage. His outbursts and erotic gyrating won the crowd over to the point they would giggle as soon as he entered the stage.
Belch's comedy exploded through his duo with the neurotic squire Sir Andrew Aguaecheek, played by the bouncing, sprightly, maniacal Shaun Slusarski, A&S '12. Donning an absurdly loud yellow and blue pinstripe blazer with elongated coattails, Aguecheek followed Belch around, slithering on the stage and pelvic-thrusting into the night. The duo spawned a wondrous comedy of errors.
Along with the town drunkard and the town head-case, the town fool also enraptured the audience, pulling us further from the lead plot. Sebastian, played by the gesticulating, vigorous Drew Broussard, A&S '10, waltzed around with provocative one-liners like "Better a witty fool than a foolish wit." In one of the most inspired scenes of the night, Sebastian grabbed a guitar and mic from the ether and sung a howling blues number to the sloshed Belch and Aguacheek, who joined with a sensually-charged tambourine, kazoo, and operatic baritone harmonizing.
Though not the most fitting play for the modern audience, Twelfth Night, or What You Will proved an overall winner with its varied acting and bold use of music.