For most Brown students, Shakespeare existed only in high school English classes; while his importance as a founding father of modern drama and comedy are drilled into our brains, his texts often remain inert to the modern reader.
To those who haven’t seen high-quality Shakespeare productions, welcome to a whole new world. To those who have and love it, welcome to your dream.
Twelfth Night, directed by Jane Nichols, is a well-oiled machine. Despite running two and a half hours, the show doesn’t ever lag. The actors are like frenetic puppets, weaving on and off stage with timed precision. The set, too, is moving; the stage, initially all but bare upon entering the theater, changes subtly but effectively to denote change of setting.
Nichols, an esteemed professor of at the Yale School of Drama and currently a visiting artist at Brown, is an obvious professional and the true star of the show, despite never appearing on stage. Her blocking is as tight as can be, and her knowledge of the text is clear from the start. Unlike many student productions of Shakespeare, it’s clear the actors know the exact meaning of the lines they’re delivering. When the actors know the meaning of their words, it’s much easier for the audience to wade through Shakespeare’s, at times, opaque text–and the jokes certainly land with surer footing. The actors are just as comfortable in group scenes as they are expertly delivering soliloquies that sometimes border on… lengthy.