Twelfth Night at Apex High Review

October 18-20, the Apex High Peak Players are taking on a wacky early 2000s re-imagining of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night directed by Laura Levine. Shakespeare’s work was meant to be performed, so Levine’s adaptation of the comedy revolving around twins Viola and Sebastian, separated by a shipwreck, as they get into twisted–and completely absurd–love triangles, is perfect.

As everyone who has had to read Romeo and Juliet in freshman English knows, Shakespeare can be daunting just to read, much less perform or produce. However, this production has none of the drama and pretentiousness that one expects when they hear the dreaded words : “a play by Shakespeare.” Levine approaches it with a humor and irony that it needs. With a kazoo, bubble, and live-studio-audience-style cue card section straight out of a family sitcom, the audience is made a part of the story in nearly every scene, making even those who would normally yawn at the thought of attending a Shakespeare play have a good time.

Watching the play, seated soundly in the middle of the kazoo section, felt like being in a college student’s absurdist modern performance art piece, and that’s pretty much exactly what Levine was going for. Between scenes the lights go dark, and as people dressed in all black rearrange set pieces, trashy pop music blares loudly; there’s something disorienting, yet oddly hypnotizing about it. “I decided to go with a 2000s theme–it’s very She’s the Man–because I wanted it to relate to you guys more. It’s just really fun and over the top…You know, we’re in this, like, crazy political situation, and the show is just crazy and fun. I want you to just laugh and have fun, and not think about that kind of stuff for a minute,” explained Levine.

The audience sits on the stage with colorful lanterns strung behind them, and the actors run around enthusiastically in the middle like kindergartners in a sandbox. However, the thrust stage detracts from the experience as much as it adds to it. At all times an actor’s back is turned to at least one section of the audience, and given the complexity of the text, facial expressions are vital to understand the story. As a result, the story can be a little confusing.

The actors impressively mastered the script, and use over exaggerated physical comedy to keep the tone light given the heavy Shakespearean vocabulary. Senior Dane Swanser, playing Malvolio, does an especially good job at making the ridiculousness of his situation–from being perched on a fountain, dramatically reading a forged love letter, to angrily storming on stage in a nightgown–seem perfectly natural. The lovable bro dynamic of Sir Toby Belch, played by Calvin Rubes, and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, played by Bobby Cnare, makes the audience feel like they stumbled into a frat house instead of a high school theater production. Even the water, played by Shannon Schmaltzbauer, has a personality.

If you’re down for feeling completely and utterly confused in the best way from 7:00-9:00pm  in the auditorium, the Apex Peak Players’ production of Twelfth Night is for you. If you’d like to go, get your tickets on the Apex Drama website or buy them at the door.

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