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PUBLISHED: 1:39 PM on Wednesday, November 16, 2005
'Twelfth Night' not lost in Shakespearean dialogue

Photo by Amanda Gragert
  Bina Chauhan as Viola in "Twelfth Night."
Shakespeare confuses me.

I only fully understand the Shakespeare plays I studied in high school. It wasn't too difficult because we would spend weeks breaking down each line and discussing what it meant.

If only I had my high school English teacher sitting beside me during "Twelfth Night" at the Perseverance Theatre.

I went to the play knowing that I probably wouldn't understand each word.

But I didn't really need to.

The set pulled me into the story before the house lights ever went down and the production started. The timeless world of Illyria is beautifully done in shades of blue to reflect water, with whimsical trees, two-way mirrors and a giant clock. It's a world that I was immediately attracted to.

To continue the mood, the director used wonderful sounds - music set the attitude while nature's sound effects helped the stage plots come alive. I jumped in my seat when I wasn't expecting to hear a gunshot and was delighted to not only hear rain but see it as well. The visuals and sounds of the play made it an experience to enjoy without understanding the words spoken.

Now I did understand the general premise of the play. Before I went, I knew plot and other background information. But I wasn't familiar with each scene or character.

During the play, a high school student in the row behind me, explained it to her father. At intermission I wanted to introduce myself and have her break it down for me, but I decided to take in the experience for myself and draw my own conclusions.

Bina Chauhan was magnificent as Viola, a shipwrecked young woman who finds herself in an unfamiliar world. Viola disguises herself as a boy and servant to Orsino, played by Ryan Conarro. The play is full of satire, which I found amusing even when I did not fully understand what was being said. The actors' facial expressions and pronunciation allowed me to follow their mood, whether it be serious or humorous. I admit that I became lazy in attempting to understand the dialogue. The visuals, sound effects and actors were entrancing and I followed the play without following the words.

Director PJ Paparelli did a good job of making the story clear to the audience by using the senses of sight and sound and not focusing on dialogue.

The humorous tangled web of love comes out clearly by the actors' expressions. I could easily follow who loved who, who was hurt and who was happy. The second half of the performance was more satire than the first. I could easily sit back and enjoy the show without attempting to grab each word.

"Twelfth Night" is playing through Nov. 27 and is worth the effort to try to understand the Bard.

Amanda Gragert is the Capital City Weekly editor.


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