The theater company Savannah Shakes continues its work to produce Shakespeare’s classics with “Twelfth Night” at Savannah State University.

If you’re headed to see “Twelfth Night” on its final weekend, you should familiarize yourself with the basics of the plot beforehand. The comedy begins with a series of short scenes that can be confusing to first-time viewers, and I found that this production started a little slowly before gathering considerable steam.

 

The production, which is directed by Mike Moore and boasts strong performances from 14 cast members, couches the play in the conventions of a 1980s romantic comedy, a choice that allows for a certain playfulness in the acting styles.

This is essentially a black box-style show. A soundtrack of pop hits accompanies the action, but the lighting never changes, a projection at the rear of the stage adds little and the props are few.

This sort of bare-bones production worked beautifully at the sorely missed Muse Arts Warehouse, but doesn’t translate especially well to the more formal stage at the Kennedy Fine Arts building, where the dialogue can be a little muffled if the actors are behind the curtain line. The play would have been stronger if more of the action had taken place farther downstage, which would have given some of the scenes more immediacy.

That said, there are still some powerful moments here, including when Olivia (Carolyn Anne Gibbs) expresses her love to the young Cesario, who is actually Viola (Abigail Eller) in disguise.

The more broadly comic scenes — like the imprisonment of Malvolio (Travis Spangenburg) and the musical interludes with Feste (Juan Miguel Vidales) — are also consistently strong.

“Twelfth Night” will be performed at 8 p.m. June 29-30 and 3 p.m. July 1. Tickets are $20 or $15 for students, seniors and military. Including the intermission, the running time is about 2 hours, 30 minutes.


Bill Dawers writes City Talk in Savannah Morning News and blogs at Savannah Unplugged (www.billdawers.com) and hissing lawns (www.hissinglawns.com). Email billdawers@comcast.net.