Some college students may hear the name “Shakespeare” and start running the opposite way while others will sit and listen to the iambic pentameter with a grin from ear to ear. Those latter students probably enjoy crocheting and dine on grilled liver for dinner, but this isn’t a Dr. Phil tell-a-thon. Shakespeare’s jargon definitely takes some getting used to, especially in this mass marketed world where slang has taken over speech. Nevertheless, students should take off their headphones and visit the University of Miami Ring Theatre’s ensemble rendition of the master’s superb comedy “Twelfth Night.” The play is nothing less than an explosion of the greatest art you can currently see on campus.
The director, Stephen Svoboda, takes the audience on a dramatic roller coaster that enables one to realize just how risquE and ahead of his time Shakespeare was. Set during a 4th of July celebration in the 1950s, a time filled with anti-Communism and pro-American ideology, the world of the play is set even before the play opens as the audience is immersed in a Rat Pack frenzy.
This version of the story makes sure to avoid constructing huge political statements and modernizes it with politically incorrectness. Shakespeare would be pleased to see an interpretation of his play depicting how love can twist and turn every nerve in the brain and cause humans to act and talk in impractical ways. Naturally, “Twelfth Night” connects with a vast majority of the audience via slapstick humor, but its very witty and biting dialogue is tremendously effective as well; a definite triumph for Svoboda and his cast and crew.
Most notable in this great ensemble cast are three upcoming actors. Christina Valo, as Feste the Fool, launches herself into the upper-echelon of talent as she sings, dances, entertains, and amuses the audience for over two hours. Josh Fiedler, as Malvolio, merely has to make an entrance to put every patron in a fit of giggles. Adding a brilliant comedic tone to his speech gives Malvolio a certain air of respectability while he endures the most drama, but also induces contagious laughter. Finally, Brian Cavallaro as the drunken Sir Toby displays a successful, likeable character arc, as Toby steals the audience’s attention and induces anticipation for his next scene immediately after he exits.
When it comes to desiring a theatre experience that surpasses those of professional venues, one must consider this wonderful cast and technical crew, and applaud them for their ever-endearing work. Adriana Hernandez’s set design seems almost as if it could become annoying, but never does, as even a fountain springs up and shuts down on cue. (It must be nice to play God.)
Cheers to the property people and the stunningly well planned and thoroughly researched costume design. Taking on the task of doing any Shakespeare play can be daunting – more so when it’s this very difficult, rarely produced masterwork. There aren’t too many companies that can pull off this gender-bending, sex-crazed, marriage-driven comedy with a huge twist for an ending. (Your attention is peaking…)
UM students should not miss this event, no matter how much cynicism arises from the thought of subjecting oneself to a Shakespeare play. After viewing this play, one can and will walk away knowing and understanding more about the King of Theatre than ever thought possible. All you have to do is take a seat.
“Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare plays at the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre April 16-19 at 8 p.m. and April 19 at 2 p.m. The theatre is located at 1312 Miller Drive; please call 305.284.3355 for more information.
Joshua Caraballo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.