For her final Carleton production, Ruth Weiner transported the audience to Illyria – a mysterious land where two shipwrecked twins find love and each other.
Ruth’s Illyria was shown to us as simple tiered platforms and bare stone walls, but this simple set came alive with beautiful lighting. (Set Design by Nayna Ramey, Lights by Jeff Bartlett, Julie Leghorn, and Jenn Rathsack) The set itself never changed, but the shifting light easily brought the audience to Illyria.
The music brought Illyria together, however. It consisted of a vast array of sounds created by guest artist Peter Vitale and performed by three student musicians. (Nate Osher, Kayla Jackson, and Bobby Volpendesta) We were invited into the world with the sound of a gong, and throughout the show, from their corner, we heard the sound of waves, birds, and sound effects for all the exits and entrances of characters. My personal favorite was screeching sound that Malvolio caused.
Shakespeare performances can be awful – I’ve fallen asleep once or twice at “good” performances, but Prof. Weiner’s Twelfth Night kept me laughing and entertained the entire way through, with the actors’ energy and understanding of the language. It didn’t feel like a college Shakespeare performance where you know that the actors only half-understand what’s going on themselves.
The actors who really kept me laughing were Andrew Harvey ’15, Ethan Ramsey ’17, and Bryan Reed (alum) playing the drunk fools who tease and trick Malvolio (Professor Roger Bechtel) along with Maria (Grace Black ’15). Anytime they were onstage, you knew you were in for a good laugh.
And of course the funniest characters bring out the best in Malvolio – who shines when he is being tricked and taunted. I almost fell over laughing when Professor Bechtel came down the isle in yellow and black skinny pants, high black boots, and a rocker shirt and attitude. Not only was he funny, but Professor Bechtel also captured the tortured Malvolio perfectly, lit by stark bright lights under the platforms. You could tell that he had been a professional actor before coming to Carleton – he really knocked it out of the ballpark.
Sam Braslow ’15 played a laid back lovesick Orsino which contrasted nicely to Hannah Neville’s ’14 rigid Olivia in the beginning of the play. Kristen Nassar ’16 debuted on the Carleton stage as Viola, the third in the triangle of unrequited love that begins Twelfth Night.
On the other side of the island, we find Max Henkel ’14, who skillfully plays a somewhat “emo” Antonio, who is in love with Sebastian, Freddy Stein ’14.
The ending was at least funny if not romantic. Neville and Stein’s romance is comedy gold. Their romance is brought alive when she jumps up and straddles Stein and every time they gaze into each other’s eyes and almost giggle. And the funniest moment had to be when the twins reunite and look nothing alike, and there’s the moment of wondering how they could have gotten them confused.
Although the twins looked nothing alike, I still bought into it; I still enjoyed the happy ending and clapped when the couples were together. Ruth Weiner bows out of Carleton on a high note with this beautiful production.