Review by Reeya Dighe, Walnut Hills High School Cappies Critic Team
Shipwrecks, siblings, and one strange love triangle. William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" chronicles the tale of Viola, a shipwrecked maiden who, with the help of a Captain, disguises herself as a man and enlists in the Duke of Orsino's service under the alias of Cesario. Viola soon falls for the suave and charming Duke, who in turn is in love with the haughty and aloof Olivia. As these love-struck individuals chase one another about the island of Illyria, hilarity and confusion ensues, prompted along by none other than Feste the Jester.
Ryle High School tackled this lengthy comedy in a uniquely minimalistic manner, with ingenuity and witty repartee. Anchored by a strong lead actress and an equally proficient supporting ensemble, the cast and crew delivered an unforgettable performance, effectively conveying the humor, love, and bewilderment "Twelfth Night" is renowned for.
Averie Morris, in the role of Viola, delicately embodied this epochal character with both dignified femininity and boyish charm. She nimbly transitioned from shipwrecked sister, to loyal servicemen, to enamored lover, achieving seamless comedic timing in the process. Equally brilliant, Wade Yates, in the role of Feste, expertly navigated the complex Shakespearean humor. Coupled with well-timed audience interactions, and token 21st century humor, Yates brought unparalleled energy and dimension to this Shakespearean stock character.
The supporting cast brought immense zeal and enthusiasm to their roles, and effectively carried the humor with ease and intent. In the role of Olivia, Elliet Malatesta eagerly delivered a passionate performance of this madly infatuated character. Opposite her, in the role of the Duke of Orsino, Evan Bales dexterously portrayed this polished noble turned wistful lover. The Pranksters, consisting of Anna Basinger as Fabian, James Lindeman as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Slate Robinson as Sir Toby, and Camryn Smith as Maria, maintained great energy as a dynamic and hilariously witty ensemble. They effectively progressed the plot while still maintaining the lighthearted, whimsical tone of the play.
With the unique decision to perform this classic in the round with an extremely minimal set, a heightened focus was placed on acting technique, intent, and stage presence. The cast of "Twelfth Night" gracefully rose to the challenge, leaving it all on the stage in a truly remarkable performance.
Review by Charlie Eibin, Ursuline Academy Cappies Critic Team
Love triangles are always entertaining, especially when paired with false identities and written in iambic pentameter. The students of Ryle High School performed the story of one of the most epic love triangles in theatrical history: "Twelfth Night."
Originally written in the early 1600's by William Shakespeare, "Twelfth Night" has a long history of productions. Following the original text almost exactly, the production tells the story of Viola, a young heroine separated from her brother, Sebastian, after a shipwreck. In the society of this time period, it is improbable that Viola would be able to succeed as a lonesome woman, so she adopts the identity of a man and calls herself Cesario. Throughout her journey as Cesario, Viola falls in love with a man named Orsino, who is in love with the Countess, Olivia, creating a literal love triangle when Olivia falls in love with Viola, thinking that Viola is a man.
Being a Shakespearean comedy, the dialogue could be hard to follow at times, but the cast did an exceptional job with facial expressions and raw emotion in their voices to make the plot easier to understand. It should be noted that not once did a character noticeably stumble while delivering a complicated line of iambic pentameter.
The story's heroine, Viola (also known as Cesario), was embodied by Averie Morris. Morris excelled at playing both the female aspect of her character, head over heels in love yet strong and independent, and the male aspect, doing her best to keep up with the façade.
Other students who were remarkable with their roles included Elliet Malatesta (Countess Olivia) and Wade Yates (Feste the Fool). Most impressive was the emotion Malatesta portrayed as Olivia within her passion and obsessive qualities. Yates never failed to provide comedic relief. Whether through singing randomly or playing tricks on other characters, Yates was perfectly cast for the role of a jester.
Although the set was extremely simplistic, the stage crew worked wonderfully to block the stage so that everyone could make the best use of the space. With only a few moveable structures and limited props, Jack Archie, Sophia Hanson, and the rest of the stage crew were still able to guide the setting from scene to scene. The simplistic set and lack of props allowed the setting of each scene to be up to the imagination.
The students of Ryle High School pulled off this complicated show with pure emotion and simplicity that left much to be imagined.
Review by Clare Brennan, Walnut Hills High School Cappies Critic Team
The twists and turns and of a comedy are often puzzling, yet equally funny; this is certainly the case for Ryle High School's production of "Twelfth Night" by William Shakespeare.
"Twelfth Night" follows Viola, a shipwrecked and lonesome girl, as she assumes the persona of a man named Cesario and attempts to get closer to Duke Orsino, the man with whom she is enchanted. Sadly, Orsino's affections lie with Olivia, a lady mourning the loss of her brother. In true Shakespearean fashion, plots are intertwined and mixed about so that Olivia is in love with Viola , who she believes to be a Cesario. Revolving around this central plot is a comedic subplot that focuses on the various others living in Olivia's house and their plot to dethrone the ever-strict Malvolio, administrator of the house. As the show is a traditional comedy, it, of course, ends happily with the major characters in love with the befitting partners, despite the hilarity along the way.
Averie Morris took on the great task of playing Viola. Morris, bravely cutting her hair for the role, deftly portrayed Viola as a genuinely kind individual caught up in such a wild situation. The character Viola presents the unique challenge of having to play a woman constantly pretending to be a man; although at times, Morris would break this pretense for a comic aside to the audience, she successfully navigated this difficult aspect of her role. Opposite her was Elliet Malatesta as Olivia; Malatesta was brilliant in her performance of the dramatic lady. Impressively, Malatesta often seemed as if she would burst into a hysterical fit at any moment, complete with low and emotional fits of screaming and higher, almost funny, cackles. Another interesting aspect of Malatesta's performance was her physicality which was always ladylike yet barely put together. Morris and Malatesta together had quite explosive chemistry, explosive-describing the laughter of the audience as Malatesta would endlessly try to court the apprehensive Morris.
While the principal performers in the show were not a disappointment in any way, the real soul of the show lay with Wade Yates, whose performance as Feste the Fool was near perfection. Yates combined a goofy persona with unbridled honesty to create a hilarious and lovable joker. Despite often being a rather nasty character, Yates was hard not to root for in his never-ending quest to stir the pot and make others laugh. Another critical aspect of Feste, in particular, is his willingness to sing, not to be confused with his ability to sing. Yates carried off many songs throughout the show solely alone and nevertheless was always charming. In a production with already remarkable acting, Yates stood out in his infinitely delightful performance.
The production also featured original music written by Andrew Strawn. Writing any composition is already a commendable task, but writing one to fit a specific, already-written show is another. Strawn's music was jaunty and enjoyable, and darker in moments where it was necessary. Additionally creditable was Strawn's collaboration with the sole vocalist, Yates, in giving him material that not only fit Feste exceptionally well but also Yates as a singer.
Overall, Ryle High School's production of "Twelfth Night" hit all essential comedic and dramatic beats with much success. From the adept actors to the fitting score, this production was captivating and lively, creating a world where it felt as if anything could happen next.
Excerpts from Top-Ranked Student Reviews
“The driving force behind Ryle's production was the drunken trio which included James Lindeman as Sir Andrew, Slate Robinson as Sir Toby, and Wade Yates as Feste the Fool. The trio drives most of the comedic elements of the play and added much-needed energy to the lengthy show. Feste's drunken songs, Andrew's exaggerated blandness, and Toby's complete lack of boundaries played together to create a hilarious addition to the play.”
-Iris LeCates, Walnut Hills High School
“Playing on the blurred ideas of right and wrong in the play, Ryle High School imaginatively featured a steampunk theme. This was most notable in the brilliant costume design. Victorian era clothing was thoughtfully mixed with accents of metal in the form of buttons and pins. The ensembles were completed with accessories such as hats or metal goggles chosen to suit each character's unique personality. One standout design was Olivia's costume.”
-Victoria Childers, Roger Bacon High School
“Viola, played by Averie Morris, did an excellent job embodying her role, since it was a little different than a lot of other shows. The part demanded that she play a girl only for two scenes, the beginning and the end. Between these moments, she had to act like a man, well, a girl playing a guy, which requires more skill than it sounds like. Morris met and exceeded all expectations.”
-Allison Kiehl, Loveland High School
“The crews did phenomenal behind-the-scenes work. The stage management ran a smooth show with quick and concise scene changes. They built the foundation for the wonderful show that was performed. The music composition, done by Andrew Strawn, transported you back to Shakespeare's time and filled the stage's image with grand themes.”
-Shelby Lutz, Colerain High School
“The other stand out actors were Elliet Malatesta and Wade Yates. Both actors performed with a lively enthusiasm through their bold choices and the physical aspects of their characters. Malatesta, as Countess Olivia, portrayed her character as a bold, daring, and amusing, strong woman in the story by using fun facial expressions. As Feste the Fool, the character that provides wisdom with hilarious jokes in between, Wade Yates used kid-like physical acting and jittery movements that kept the rest of the plot in motion.”
-Suzy Troughton, William Mason High School
“When perusing through the playbill, one may have noticed something a little odd: music. Music in a Shakespeare production? Not just music, music that was originally composed by Ryle student, Andrew Strawn. The music was used for scene changes and even a few musical numbers. It was certainly a welcome surprise.”
-Carter Unrau, Campbell County High School
“In a play where scenes change quickly and frequently, emotions typically fluctuate just the same. One thing that remained constant, however, was laughter consistently following Feste the Fool's onstage presence. Improvisation was encouraged during rehearsal, and many of those lines transferred into the final script. Many of those were courtesy of Wade Yates who played Feste. He clearly enjoyed his role and channeled that to create a character that the whole audience adored.”
-Elizabeth Snelling, Ursuline Academy
These reviews also appeared on the Cincinnati Enquirer's website.