This article won first prize in the 2012 Journalism contest in the Hilbert College Newspaper
Photo - Hollywood & Shakespearian Actor Bill Dennehy with B. De Mike
Is that the Bard I hear rolling around in his grave or is it his rollicking laughter? Who could have imagined that Shakespeare’s famous comedy, Twelfth Night could marry reggae and rock with Medieval minstrels? It’s certain that director Des McAnuff , a dramatic genius realized theater must transcend time and place to delight today’s audiences, maintaining the classics with a freshness and appeal that stuns, surprises and totally inspires the human soul.
This production in particular had the total audience, consisting of dozens of students as well as avid theater-goers, toe-tapping, clapping, swaying in their seats and laughing hysterically at mocking sword fights, clever quips, eye-popping comedic costumes (Bette Davis would have been green with envy at the two foot ribbon-swirled Elizabethan collar), and grungy guitar playing minstrels. The lavish wardrobe on the other hand, was as gaudy and sparkle encrusted as one can imagine. Contrast? Perfect!
One is warned that this perplexing plot twists and turns with troubles and misleading tales, however, we are immediately set at ease with dialogue that explains all, developing in the audience’s minds, complete understanding of a topsy-turvy situation; of twins who think each other is dead, of a beautiful girl who must disguise herself as a man and who, exactly is in love with whom. The staging with four marble covered boxes, used as movable props is one of the cleverest tricks for playing to an almost circular audience by placing them in various stacks, and seating arrangements. The most outlandish effects however included the mobile driving units, entering form upstage center, rolling in a cast of characters and a sliding in a full-scale bar for the drinking crowd complete with a “pizza delivery” bringing howls of hysterical laughter from the surprised crowd.
A personal highlight for me, since I direct child and adult actor alike from time to time, was the amazing portrayal of Toby, of a binge-drinking knight sir-errant by famous stage and screen actor Bill Dennehy. His acting, so amazing, had me awe-struck throughout the entire production. The never-ending expressions of face, body language, eyebrows, mouth, tongue, and that heavenly smile sent me backstage, I felt I had to meet this actor even if it meant "crashing the gate" (of which I am quite famous). Note in hand and with all the authority of a visiting Hollywood director, I "insisted' that I must see Mr. Dennehy and give him this a important note. He immediately led me to his dressing room where I was followed by a "real" Hollywood director and true friend of Mr. D.
Without giving either one a chance to say a word, I placed a camera in the Hollywood gentleman's hand and said "I'm sure you know how to use this." After heaping accolades upon this stunned actor, I begged for a photo for the Hilbert College newspaper (which he so kindly granted).
Theater goers should be aware that Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night revelry, gleaned from the English folk song, “Twelve days of Christmas”, sets us in a holiday mood where lust, love and lively partying escalate. We are entering into the Bard’s “magical ground” as in many of his other romantic and intriguing comedies yet the excesses we see here actually mask a fear of loneliness. It is wisdom versus folly, madness versus the sanity of glorious decisions as when “love conquers all” in the marriage of three socially mismatched couples.
“What say you Shakespeare? Are you crying out, ‘Down with medieval - Up with the modern world?" This, truly is the theme of every generation but not portrayed with such glorious gusto!.