As the lights went down, the audience was greeted with thunderous, wave sound effects and the sight of actors swinging from ropes entwined into the image of a sail. What looks like an avant-garde lyrical movement piece at first, soon becomes more aggressive and filled with anxiety until the music stops and the actors fall flat on the floor.
The Queens Theatre recently had a three-day run of Twelfth Night by the Aquila Theater Company on national tour. This show had a huge expectancy, especially because of reduced rates, starting at $25, as compared to BAM’s $125 tickets.
Though the actors were clearly trained and were by no means amateurs in classical text, several suffered from a lack of imagination, exhaustion and mechanical acting.
Hugely disappointing was Lizzy Dive as Lady Toby Belch, who holds a good portion of the comedy in the play through her role. At times, it did not appear as if she knew the meaning behind the words she spoke, and tried to convincingly play being intoxicated. The comedy of her character comes from just being truthful, but since her choices were not strong enough to support her scene objective, it took the audience out of world of the play.
Feste is another comical character, but he too came off as annoying and misplaced. He tried without success to be flamboyant and funny, and it was a complete turn off most of the time. The purpose of this character was questionable.
Ironically, the same actor, Will Willinger, also plays the Captain, but the performance is totally different. He sees his surrounding and his words are full of visual meanings that create another world for the audience.
Olivia, played by Harriet Barrow, was extremely tuned into her character. She didn’t “perform” the idea of what she thought about Olivia’s character, instead she bodied the role from beginning to end. Olivia and Viola were very tuned into each other and were active listeners to what each were saying and did not merely react, but actively pursued their objective.
James Lavender played Malevolio and Sebastian, which were quite intriguing to watch, as his presence took command of the stage. It was surprising to watch him do such quick changes and switch into the different roles without hesitation or doubt. Lavender has a solid technique, as he treated audiences with a funny yet compelling performance.
The costumes were simple and modern. Olivia’s outfits weren’t as extravagant as her character would suggest, just a red silk dress and black heels. The only actor that dressed in period attire was Malevolio, whose outfits had a custom fit with a touch of edge and eloquence.
The Queens Theatre is located in Flushing, Queens in the middle of Flushing Meadows Park. Their shows offer a cheap alternative to watching theatre, especially for college students. Although it differed from BAM’s production of Twelfth Night, there were indeed beautiful moments, dynamics, and connections made between actors in several scenes. Queens Theatre also has dance classes every Tuesday, new play series, and free events that are both affordable and creative, if you’re willing to travel.