A Noise Within Celebrates 20th Anniversary with Twelfth Night

The Cast of Twelfth Night. Photos by Craig Schwartz

Few have been able to accomplish what the founders of A Noise Within have over the course of their theatrical life in Southern California. 2011 is indeed an auspicious occasion for husband and wife co-artistic directors Julia Rodriguez-Elliott and Geoff Elliott as they celebrate their 20th anniversary by christening a new permanent home in Pasadena’s historical Stuart Pharmaceutical building. The building itself is a mid-century marvel designed by Edward Durell Stone, whose distinguished architectural legacy includes Radio City Music Hall and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

To open their brand new sparkling digs they’ve chosen Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Or What You Will a play that was originally written and performed in the early 1600’s for a celebration, and now once again appropriately marks the beginning of another celebration. By setting the play in pre-revolutionary Cuba, director Rodriguez-Elliott capitalizes further on the festivities by adding the color and life of Carribean carnival into the mix and infusing the action with the sensuality and heat of the tropics.

Reversing the first two scenes also allows the production to make its own memorable entrance (and a terrific first impression it is) as Viola washes up on the Cuban shore amid ensemble members creating the magic of the storm. It’s inventive and dramatic, and quite breathtaking really. Even the scene changes have been choreographed with an eye to continuing the drama; their inter-connected patterns of movement, urgency, and grace an extension of the relationships and exotic locale.

Twelfth Night has its fun with love’s complications by weaving together a series of  mistaken identities; Orsino (Robertson Dean) is in love with Olivia (Abby Craden) who falls in love with Cesario, a young man in Orsino’s employment who is actually Viola (Angela Gulner) disguised as a boy, who falls in love with Orsino. The secondary comic plot concerns Olivia’s maid Maria (Deborah Strang) and her rowdy cohorts, Sir Toby Belch (Apollo Dukakis) and Andrew Aguecheek (Jeremy Rabb), and their scheme to teach the haughty Malvolio (Geoff Elliott) a lesson.

Deborah Strang and Apollo Dukakis

The skill of ANW’s resident artists is undeniable and each one makes full use of his or her strengths in this production. Because Strang, Dukakis and Rabb are having a raucously good time on stage, we in the audience do too. Many of the most delicious moments come from these three laying out the plot to torment poor Elliott and then reveling in his misery. Craden is gorgeous in this time period and her extravagent declarations of love add much sturm und drang to Viola/Cesario’s dilemma. Dean captures the absurdity of Orsino in love; Steve Weingartner lends a stalwart quality to Antonio; and Gulner’s Viola is as sincere as she is true. When she is reunited with her lost twin brother, Sebastian (Max Rosenak) in the end, it is an honest and moving resolution for all.

Twelfth Night runs through December 16 at A Noise Within, 3352 East Foothill Blvd., Pasadena, CA  91107. For tickets and more information call (626) 356-3100 or visit www.ANoiseWithin.org.


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