Review: The Empty Chair Theater’s production of Twelfth Night – To Fun for Words!

Charlie Cook, Mark Tucker, Matt Minnicino, Anna Treichler


The Empty Chair Theater’s production of Twelfth Night

When I first stumbled upon the website for “Empty Chair Theater“, I was a little more than perplexed as to how they decided to use that name for their company. I, coming from the audience perspective, thought of an empty chair as a lack of audience to fill a seat, which seemed kinda depressing.  A lone chair facing a world of actors.

So during intermission I asked the young girl behind the concession, why Empty Chair Theater? And was told in essence, it is based on the fact that there are so many wonderful young actors in the DC area dying to do professional, classical theater. But there are to few Shakespearean companies to accommodate these new, and upcoming actors.  So Julia Sears and Elizabeth Nearing created a “Space”, an”Empty Chair”. They created a “Void” knowing nature abhors a vacuum, and then filled this void with young Shakespearean actors ready to take on the world. (These are not their words, but this is what I came away with).

As far as the play itself went. My wife and I walked into the “Theater on the Run Black Box”, which has a very pleasant setup, full stage lighting, theater seating etc.  Now I’m use to seeing Shakespeare done by smaller companies, and knew what to expect about audience size, but my wife did not. She’s been to the Blackfriars in Staunton several times, and seen “The Shakespeare Theatre” perform at the Sydney Harmon Hall, both with large audiences. But when we walked in and she saw only 10 people in the audience, she was completely taken by surprise. I just smiled at her and grabbed a front row, center seat. I’ve been to enough of these small shows to know that with Shakespeare, the audience size and budget, do not have to inhibit quality and enthusiasm of the play.

Their setting for Twelfth Night was a School. Staying true to the Shakespearean language of the text, and with the actors all being in their twenty’s, the setting worked amazingly well. Danny Cackley in the role of Duke Orsino appeared as a kinda class president. Sir Toby Belch (Charlie Cook) and his crew came off as the Drinking, Stoner/Burnout crowd (No drugs were mentioned, or seen in this play, but the potato chips were a dead giveaway). And it all fit wonderfully.

The actors, and the play itself were fantastic and funny. The  comedic scene where Malvolio (Jeremy Tuoby) finds the letter was hilarious and original, the physical humor being top notch. Rebecca Speas as Viola was excellent, with a fantastic singing voice. Natalie Cutcher as Olivia was beautiful, with an easy stage presence. Everyone in this play doing a superb job!

I would like to give an honorable mention to Mark Tucker who I believe was the musical director. I’ve seen 27 individual Shakespearean plays live, some of them multiple times. Yet Mark Tuckers musical intermission was inspired and one of the best. With all the cast members joining in, the music and singing was a joy, and fit the play perfect. Truly one of the best interludes I’ve seen.

So’ my wife and I were there with 10 other people yesterday, which made us a very lucky few. Today is their last performance of Twelfth Night at 7:30, which you could still catch if your lucky. But all is not lost, they will be back with Titus Andronicus next month, including a stop at the Folgers Theater in Washington DC!

The Empty Chair Theater’s production of Twelfth Night


First: Wednesday Jun 15, 2011 7:30 PM
Last: Sunday Jun 19, 2011 7:30 PM
$5.00 – $15.00
Theater on the Run
3700 S. Four Mile Run
Arlington, VA 22206
United States

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