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Twisting Shakespearean Songplay

May 23, 2017

TwelfthNight@ZJU_PostcardBestTwisting Shakespearean wordplay into witty songplay Denise Devin alwayse finds fun ways to pull Shakespeare apart and build them back up into her unique, perpetual, motion oriented fast paced theatre. I think it’s alwayse a wild ride, but the audience must agree, from go they were clapping and swaying along. Right here is where I regret the lack of emoticons in proper writing, I’m grinning writing this up, remembering Miss Devin’s perfect Twelfth Night adaptation. Screw it J J J

Denise enthralls the audience from the start, keeping us on our toes, ever moving, both physically and through those ephemeral sensations which make theatre worth wyld. Ever moving and ever building Denise use strong actors to push the momentum alwayse forward. Each piece of the ensemble fits together, parts of the whole who’d certainly leave holes had they not been involved in this adaptation of Twelfth Night.

Sir Toby Belch stands out Roger K. Weiss lifting and driving the mood of every scene he graces, a levity which maintains after he’s left the stage. A consummate touchstone of energy Roger was the base level for the whole performance. Keeping the energy and pace moving allowed the contrast for those scenes which need be slower, powerful in a different vein. This can be difficult in a show that’s alwayse moving forward at speed, a bar with which to clear a jovial character and actor keeping the pace in the faster scenes gives that needed differences while maintaining the quickness Denise set forth to drive her version.

With a horn of amalthea for an ensemble Let’s see if I can hit a few cunningly turned adjectives here for a much deserved cast…

TwelfthNight@ZJU_PIC-4Feste (Kelsey Arnold) is an odd mix of character and background current, ever the puckish trickster Kelsey flows from active role to head tilting faux pantomiming. Adding life to what would be ribbon covered darkness of the black box theatre, Feste comes alive as both a character and component in Denise’s ever changing, magical motion of emotion. Zoe Canner gives a fierce hunger to Olivia, a stalking powerful quality to her grace and dignity. Olivia’s powerful cunning demeanor is needed to keep the overly rowdy and affectionate Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Zack Zoda) at bay. A tough measure as Sir Toby keeps goading him along in the most humorous ways, Sir Andrew expanding the bad ideas to terrible heights. J

Roger K. Weiss’ cut ins as Sir Toby Belch are so perfectly timed they serve as a piton, an anchor for Denise to swing the motion in any direction she chooses, including roundabout to the same way and out stage left. If Roger was a damn good anchor, Nicole A. Craig as Maria subtly, then powerfully, stole the show with a crescendoing energy that swept the audience away as much as the amazing musicals weaved into the story.

Kerry Kaz Kerry KazMalvolio gay as a maypole and I love him so. He’s presence on stage is so flamboyant it makes you clench your teeth to keep from shouting your joy at his interpretation of Mavlolio. Every scene he’s in has this tension, you’re forced on the edge of your breath waiting for Maria’s crash which finally comes and it is grand.

TwelfthNight@ZJU_PIC-2Noble Duke Orsino (Nick Abrell) plays his part as the unknowing seducer and seduced so smoothly you’re left so damn happy when his eyes are open to Viola (Branda Lock) the beautiful smart talented Branda playing the part of Viola like a piece of classical music sweet and strong building to rapture when her identity uncovered, reunion and matrimony joy all around.

Antonio and Sebastian (Carlos Chavez and Tomas Dakan) have a swashbuckling charmingly swarthy bromance going on. The chemistry Carlos and Tomas have on stage, I want to see them in something else action leaning, twisted and fun.

Denise alwasye transforms Shakespeare into the most fascinating and enjoyable rides. It helps that the folks at ZJU not only are damn talented, but they have fun with what they do. After all it’s called a Play, the audience and the cast feed and build on this fun energy, when it’s present it’s palpable. Denise alwayse brings that weight of emotion and experience to her adaptations of Shakespeare, and I’m so lucky I get to review her works.


Twelth Night (directed and adapted by Denise Devin, Produced by Zombie Joe) ran the end of April through May 14th at Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group in North Hollywood.

For information on more great shows visit and you should go there, see whatever they have J

All Photos credit: Denise Devin; Postcard by David MacDowell Blue

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