Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Jazzed up Shakespeare opens at the Rand Theater

By Staff

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Amanda Joinson/Collegian

Amanda Joinson/Collegian

When it comes to having it all, few plays are better than William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.” It has classic romance, verbal and physical comedy, bold fighting, and cross-dressing. As clichéd as it sounds, the play really does have something for everyone – and it’s coming to the University of Massachusetts Department of Theater on April 21.

The play revolves around Viola, who survives a shipwreck that seems to have killed her twin brother. Fearing what could happen to a penniless, shipwrecked woman on her own, Viola pretends to be a man and takes employment in the household of the noble Duke Orsino. The duke sends Viola, now going by the name Cesario, to woo the beautiful Lady Olivia.

This poses a problem for Viola, who has fallen for her employer. Despite such feelings, she pursues Olivia, though the task is not simple, since Olivia is in mourning for her father and brother, and refuses to see any man. Things further complicate when Olivia falls for Cesario, believing her to be a man. All this is accompanied by the trickery of various mischievous servants, Olivia’s alcohol-loving uncle trying to get Olivia to marry an idiotic knight –and the smooth sounds of 1920s jazz and blues.

A great challenge in approaching Shakespeare is how to make it fresh. Director Dawn Monique Williams’ answer is through the jazz and blues of 1920s America.

“The more I read the lyrics,” said Williams in a press release, “the more I felt its connection to the blues. While talking with Nick Keenan, the guest sound designer for the play, blues came up as the best fit with the lyrics and for its 1920s feel.”

Music plays an extremely important role in this production, with both live performances and pre-recorded tracks. Williams took advantage of the multi-talented cast. Several of the actors either sing or play instruments in the production, in addition to playing their characters.

“Twelfth Night” is the department’s first Shakespeare play in nearly two years, having produced “Pericles” in 2008.

Freshman Daniel Kadish, 19, plays Sir Andrew Aguecheek in his third production with the department:

“Sir Andrew is the lovable idiot,” Kadish said of his character. “He has a lot to say, but doesn’t ever know exactly how to say it, because he has roughly three brain cells. He is void of the ability to censor himself and says everything that pops into his head. He‘s slow on the uptake but with a little explaining, he’ll get there. Despite all that, he’s extremely sincere.”

Kadish found his biggest problem to be “finding the difference between trying to be funny and being truthful to the text and letting the text be funny enough in itself. One should never try to be funny on stage.” The struggle was certainly worth the reward for Kadish, who said the cast and director he works with are by far the best part of the experience.

“There was a sense of community since day one that has only grown,” Kadish said.

The cast features Brittany Costa as Viola, Andrew Ferlo as Orsino, and Kate Hare as Olivia. The company also includes Kadish, Duncan Grossman, Julia Piker, Greg Boover, Troy Pepicelli, Connie Russo, Sam Perry, Clay Luopa, Matt Brooks, Monica Giordano, Jonathan Remmers, and Jimmy Vidal.

The artistic team team includes Williams, dramaturge Megan McClain, scenic designer Miguel Romero, costume designer Erin Amelia White, lighting designer Jessica Greenberg, and guest composer and lighting designer Nick Keenan.

“Twelfth Night” runs April 21-23 and April 28-30 at 8 p.m., April 23 and 30 at 2 p.m., with a special school matinee April 27 at 10 a.m. in the Rand Theater. Tickets are available by calling 413-545-2511 or 1-800-999-UMAS. Tickets can also be purchased through the Fine Arts Center Box office in person or by visiting their website.

Alissa Mesibov can be reached for comment at [email protected]

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