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Twelfth Night

The Wall Street Journal
December 22, 2009

"Twelfth Night" has a way of inspiring the companies that perform it. I've yet to review a production of Shakespeare's most likable comedy that failed to please me, and some, like the whirligig Shakespeare & Company staging that I saw this past summer in Lenox, Mass., have been uncommonly fine. Bonnie J. Monte's sweet-tempered version, now playing at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, is one of the best to come my way in recent seasons—and, perhaps not coincidentally, one of the few to privilege poetry over slapstick.

Ms. Monte, the company's artistic director, does triple duty as set and sound designer, and she's come up with one of the loveliest pieces of Shakespearean décor I've seen, a wintertime snowscape made out of mountains of shredded white paper heaped on and around an ice-blue stage floor. It must be great fun to leap into all that confetti—the actors who get to do so look as though they're having a perfectly delightful time—but except for a couple of disappearing acts, it's used not for comic effects but to create an atmosphere of quiet magic that makes the play's fantastic occurrences seem perfectly plausible. This is a "Twelfth Night" in which the wonderfully well-cast women are brought to the fore, one in which the hopeless love of Olivia (Elena Shaddow) for Viola (Amy Hutchins) is neither ludicrous nor lascivious but deeply poignant.

In her program note, Ms. Monte calls "Twelfth Night" a "Chekhovian" comedy that is "far weightier in theme and thought than many of [Shakespeare's] earlier, more two-dimensional comedies . . . one that transitions us to the fully dark comedies and mercurial, symbolic romances of his later years." While I've never seen "Twelfth Night" in that way, Ms. Monte's staging is highly persuasive. Without ever stinting on the laughter, she shows us the heartbreak that lies just beneath the play's festive surface. I've seen funnier "Twelfth Nights," but none more romantic—or touching.

—Mr. Teachout, the Journal's drama critic, is the author of "Pops: A Life of Louis Armstrong," just out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

"Twelfth Night" is Holiday Delight


"If Music be the food of love, play on," says Orsino, early in the proceedings of William Shakespeare's holiday classic, "Twelfth Night." It is thought the play, written around 1600, was written as a celebration piece for the end of the Christmas season. Christmas celebrations in Shakespeare's era went on for days, a time of great merriment and pleasure. The subtitle "What You Will" involves the audience in the merry mayhem of the play, and mayhem it is!
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Oh, You’re a Girl. Marry Me!

The New York Times

In “Twelfth Night,” Shakespeare's topsy-turvy, ultimately somewhat mordant comic romp, a duke named Orsino takes as his wife a servant named Viola, who he thought was a boy just five minutes before. A young woman named Olivia, courted fervently by this same duke, had fallen for the cross-dressing servant. But she transfers her affections, in a flash, to the servant’s twin brother, Sebastian, the moment he miraculously appears (having survived a shipwreck).
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Shakespearian Celebration of the Twelfth Night of Christmas


For the holiday season, the New Jersey Shakespeare Theatre is presenting a confectionary production of the Bard's delightful comic romp Twelfth Night. Whether the title refers to the plays having been written (for Queen Elizabeth) for the joyous Epiphany ending the Yuletide season 12 days after Christmas or to its fun and festive nature reflecting that celebration, this decking out of Twelfth Night in scenery, costumes and lights appropriate to the Christmas season delights the eye and raises our spirits.
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Holidays bring an energetic, super-intelligent production of ‘Twelfth Night’ at Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey


January 6th, or the twelfth day after Christmas is no longer the huge cause for celebration it once was in Christian countries. By tradition it marked the day that the three wise men arrived in Bethlehem to present their gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh, remember ?) to the baby Jesus.

Of course we have examples of the past still with us: such songs as "The Twelve Days of Christmas" or perhaps the best example, Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night," apparently written expressly for the courts on January 6, 1600. The comedy became a huge hit over the years and the latest revival is on stage in an energetic, super-intelligent production at The Shakespeare Theatre in Madison, on the campus of Drew University.
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'Twelfth Night' rich with wit, poetry


With so much going on in the world at this time of year—good and bad, far away and right next door—the gentle production of "Twelfth Night" now at The Shakespeare Theatre in Madison is most welcome. Each minute of this show's three hours is special for the staging is visually beautiful and the storytelling is rich with wit and poetry.
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Reworking a classic with hilarious results

For The Star Ledger- Monday, December 7, 2009

White is said to be not a color, but the absence of color. Nevertheless, on an all-white set she designed herself, Bonnie J. Monte has delivered a mighty colorful production of "Twelfth Night."

The back wall of her Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey appears to be covered with shreded coconut. Monte's rendering of the Bard's comedy turns out to be just as tasty.
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'Twelfth Night'


For the second time in six years, the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey is serving up cakes and ale at its holiday buffet.

That’s the pub menu in Illyria as “The Twelfth Night” approaches in Shakespeare’s joyous comedy, which Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte is personally presenting as her company’s 47th season-ender.

Eat, drink and be merry sounds pretty good right about now as we get ready to kiss a difficult 2009 good-bye. And while Monte acknowledges the play’s bittersweet and occasionally dark shadows, Shakespeare’s humor and hope are emphasized on an abstract landscape of white snow and blue ice.
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'Twelfth Night'
Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey stages a sunnier, funnier version of one of the Bard's most beloved plays

Princeton Packet

WHAT'S in a title? Opinions differ on why Shakespeare called his play Twelfth Night. It may have been performed on Jan. 6, the calendar end of the Christmas season. But there appears to be no firm proof of that. Whatever the case, directors make of if what they will.

Bonnie J. Monte directed the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey's offering, which can be seen throughout the holidays. Also the company's artistic director, she has infused the production with a full measure of seasonal good cheer. Along with the play's overall tone, she is responsible for the set design and the choice of music.
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Shimmering 'Twelfth Night' closes season for Shakespeare Theater of NJ in Madison

Independent Press,

MADISON — The startling element in “Twelfth Night,” now on stage at The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison, is the set of shredded paper that gives the illusion of an icy, melting sheet of snow, with a glassy blue floor that appears to be frozen ice.

The deceit is perfect for the theater’s final production of the 2009 season, this winter tale of mistaken identity, as the twins Viola and Sebastian, ultimately reunite. Amy Hutchins makes a fetching Viola. Geoff Wilson is her brother, who only appears early on and towards the end of the play.
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Elena Shaddow covers the bases in ‘Twelfth Night’


What’s next: Malvolio?

Here’s Elena Shaddow, back at the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, again playing a role in "Twelfth Night." This time, she’s Olivia, the well-bred woman who falls in love with Caesario, unaware that "he" is actually Viola in disguise. In 2004, though, Shaddow was playing Viola. It wasn’t quite in "Twelfth Night," but in "Illyria," a musical version of the Bard’s comedy.

Nevertheless, Shaddow admits, "There are times during rehearsal when I hear Viola speak a line, and I think, ‘Hey, that’s mine!’ Or that I say a line that I recall someone once saying to me."
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Shakespeare Theatre's 'Twelfth Night' sure to be a holiday treat


In the 16th century, prior to the advent of Santa, Scrooge and Black Friday, Christmas Day began a festive 12-day holiday period that ended with the equally important feast of Epiphany.

These days, Christmas and New Year's dominate the secular holiday season schedule, but William Shakespeare's "The Twelfth Night" presents the opportunity to experience the joy and laughter of holidays past.

The Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey in Madison also is returning to its storied past this week with a production of this popular comedy — Artistic Director Bonnie J. Monte calls it "Shakespeare's greatest comedy" — which will return some popular stars to its stage.
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