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In Burbank, Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night' reimagined for a new generation

In Burbank, Shakespeare's 'Twelfth Night' reimagined for a new generation
A maid (Leilani Smith) counsels a disguised outsider (Amielynn Abellera) on the multicultural universe of “Twelfth Night.” (John Klopping)

Reenvisioning "Twelfth Night" through millennial-tinted glasses, Coeurage Theatre Company's revival in Burbank transposes Shakespeare's plot and theme of cultural alienation into a contemporary fable about diversity and tolerance.

Director Kate Jopson's freewheeling adaptation certainly has the courage of its convictions, making inventive use of the entire venue and its park environs (including the usually invisible tech booth). Even before the house opens, a beat-up van pulls into the adjacent driveway and ejects Filipino refugee Viola (Amielynn Abellera) to make her way in a hyper-xenophobic, racially stratified Illyria. To signal the end of intermission, Viola's twin (Robert Paterno) parallels his sister's outdoor entrance.

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The play's romantically entangled characters are translated here with modern tropes: Duke Orsino (Andy Stokan, standing in for Nardeep Khurmi) as lovesick yuppie, Olivia (Lillian Solange) as paparazzi-hounded blond heiress, her scheming cousin Toby (Dieterich Gray) as punk rocker, preening steward Malvolio (Rodrigo Brand) as hot-blooded Latino, outcast jester Feste (Randolph Thompson) as homeless balladeer, and renegade sailor Antonio (Kamar Elliott) as Caribbean.

With seven languages spoken and the original verse filtered through multinational accents, the piece at times feels more like a diversity message than a Shakespeare production. To get the most from this meta-theatrical presentation, familiarity with the original play is an advantage. What the production sacrifices in poetic meter, however, it recovers in high energy comic high jinks.

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"Twelfth Night," GTC Burbank, 1100 W. Clark Ave., Burbank. 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Pay what you want. (323) 944-2165 or www.coeurage.org/twelfth-night. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes.

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