Pasadena, December 17—MY FAVORITE OF ALL Shakespeare plays — I know, it's a ridiculous formulation — is Twelfth Night. It has some of the most affecting poetry; its large cast includes some of his most memorable, complex characters; the narrative is interesting enough on its most literal level (even after all these viewings), and Is particularly rich with extended meaning.
Last night we saw a fine performance in A Noise Within's new theater here. Julia Rodriguez-Elliott set her production in a (probably) pre-Castro Cuba, which mostly worked just fine. (Short Cuban dance numbers replaced Shakespeare's songs.) Twelfth Night always suggests Sicily to me — Viola is from Messina, as I recall — and Cuba is our Sicily, in a way: exotic, free-wheeling, fantastic.
I peck these comments out on my iPad keyboard without time for extensive discussion, so won't go into detail. anoisewithin.org will provide the credits, and I'll simply note here each actor seemed well cast and approached the assignment with intelligence, interest, skill, and sympathy; "small" roles were as beautifully and tellingly fleshed out as big ones.
(This meant, for example, that Antonio was able to emerge, correctly, as the pivot on which so much extended meaning of this great play turns.)
The company is still tuning its approach to this spacious yet cozy, beautiful new venue, but there's no doubt of the outcome. We like the hall, the company, the seriousness of purpose and the vitality and humor of approach and achievement. What will tonight's Desire Under the Elms be like?