Off-Off-Broadway Theater Review: TWELFTH NIGHT (Bedlam at Dorothy Strelsin Theatre)

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by Dmitry Zvonkov on March 29, 2015

in Theater-New York


Not long ago a frequent theater companion commented to me about a production we had just seen: “So many of these shows, if (the performers) had put them on at home for just their friends and relatives, would be so amazing…!” That statement and its subsequent ellipsis came to mind more than once during Bedlam’s rendition of Twelfth Night, Shakespeare’s play about the confusion caused at Countess Olivia’s court by a set of identical brother and sister twins.

This is not to suggest that the production is in any way amateurish or artistically unsophisticated. The actors are talented and capable and Eric Tucker’s direction is organic and inventive. On the one hand, the experience Bedlam creates in a tiny black box theater with the help of a folding table, a set of house keys which represent coins, and a variety of hats which the five performers don interchangeably to play different characters, is intimate, immediate, and full of energy. It feels, in fact, as if the delightful troupe invited you and some close friends into their home to watch them perform.

Twelfth Night

On the other hand, the casual atmosphere—with street clothes and water that’s supposed to be alcohol but is clearly water—makes it difficult to experience those things in search of which many of us come to the theater. We are not transported, we feel no emotional turmoil, we get no catharsis and gain no insights, and our disbelief isn’t suspended for a moment. To be fair, none of these things appear to be on the agenda, which seems to consist of creating a dynamic, visceral experience not of the world of the play but of actors performing it. With respect to this, there are some imperfections: some of the action can be a bit difficult to follow, and some characters are more crisply defined than others. Still, Bedlam succeeds overall in creating a charming, entertaining spectacle.

Cast: Edmund Lewis, Susannah Millonzi, Andrus Nichols, Tom O’Keefe, and Eric Tucker.

Twelfth Night or What You Will
(plays in rep with What You Will or Twelfth Night)
Dorothy Strelsin Theatre, 312 West 36th
scheduled to end on May 2, 2015
for tickets, call (866) 811-4111 or visit

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