Twelfth Night at the Axis Theater

Twelfth Night at the Axis Theater. Courtesy
Twelfth Night at the Axis Theater. Courtesy

NEW YORK – Twelfth Night at the Axis Theater

Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s most accessible and beloved productions. Marc Palmieri’s brilliant adaptation has trimmed the story down to an hour and forty minutes and is pure storytelling—accessible, lovely, and flowing. Director Randall Sharp’s staging is clean and simple, allowing the heart of the story to be presented.

The intimate stage at Axis Theater in the West Village is an ideal venue for this production. I, for the first time, really heard the words and the story and was even more wowed by Shakespeare’s twists and turns of plot and dialogue as he dug deeper and deeper trenches of lies and deception. And when you think the mess is too large to fix, he almost surreptitiously rights all the wrongs. I never considered the farcical nature of Twelfth Night and yet that was what Palmieri and Sharp have created.

Though sumptuous in shape and form, everyone is costumed in shades of pale gray (save for Malvolio’s yellow stockings, which pop in contrast). I believe that choice is to allow the audience not to be distracted so that we may concentrate on the words and story. The stage is also boarded up in gray, similar to the below decks of a wooden sailing ship. Unfortunately, the monochromatic, rather featureless look of performers AND stage fabricates a sense of dullness, which I know is not the intention.

A scene from Twelfth Night at the Axis Theater. Photo by Pavel Antonov

A scene from Twelfth Night at the Axis Theater. Photo by Pavel Antonov

Regardless of the color scheme, there is a rainbow of color in the music of the play that adds all kinds of texture. Sharp has added to the characters two musicians, Yonatan Gutfeld on piano and cello and dulcet tones of Paul Carbonara on guitar. Their addition to the story, to the mood and beauty of words and humor, is like the addition of edible flowers on a delicious cake. The cake’s flavor, texture, and appearance are enlightened and brought to another level by the addition.

The ensemble is prodigious, using the space with grace of movement that glides and flies from scene to scene. All strong, solid performances. Britt Genelin as Viola and Cesario is fantastic. Her Cesario is a convincing, dapper young man with knowledge and understanding of love way beyond his years. The scene she has with her twin brother, Sebastian, (a captivating Eli Bridges) where they discover that the other is still alive, is fantastic, enthralling, touching, and wonderful.

It was a lovely, fun night out with one of the Bard’s brilliant stories.

Twelfth Night at the Axis Theater

Written by William Shakespeare
Director: Randall Sharp
Marc Palmieri: Adaptation/Sramaturge


Spencer AsteBrian Barnhart; Eli Bridges; Andrew Dawson; George DemasKaty Frame; Britt Genelin; Robert Lerardi; Brian ParksDee PelletierJon McCormick; Jim Sterling


Paul Carbonara: Guitar
Yonatan Gutfeld Piano/Cello


Regina Betancourt: Production Stage Manager
Laurie Kilmartin: Assistant Stage Manager
David Zeffren: Light Designer
Amy Harper: Assistant Light Designer
Paul Carbonara: Composer/Sound Designer
Lynn Mancinelli: Choreographer
Karl Ruckdeschel: Costume Designer
Jess Gersz: Assistant Costume Designer
Will Vicari: Hair and Makeup Designer
Leone Gagliardi: Hair & Makeup Supervisor
Wigs Provided by The Wig Associates
Lynn Mancinelli: Properties Designer
Randall Sharp: Set Designer
Adam Couperthwaite: Jon McCormick Set Construction
Michael Birnbaum, Chris Bittneri: Sound Engineers

Axis Theater

1 Sheridan Square
New York, NY 10014
Tickets HERE

Through May 25th

Running Time: One hour forty minutes, no intermission

Readers may also enjoy our reviews of Here There Are Blueberries, Mother PlayFingers and SpoonsUncle Vanya at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln CenterStill at the Daryl Roth TheaterLas Borinqueñas at the Ensemble Studio TheatreSally and Tom at the Public TheaterLempicka at the Longacre Theatre, and The Who’s Tommy.

Twelfth Night at the Axis Theater


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