REVIEW: Production captivates Shakespeare and non-Shakespeare audiences alike

Brenna McNamara

‘Twelfth Night’ today through April 26

“Twelfth Night” centers on romantic blunders and cross-dressed, mistaken identity. The love triangles and disguises are confusing enough, and the Elizabethan English dialogue on top of this makes comprehending the plot somewhat difficult for those not familiar with Shakespeare. Luckily, though, the actors make it a beautifully entertaining and understandable performance.

Shipwrecked on the Adriatic Sea, lead character Viola, played by Aungelique Scott, finds herself in ancient Illyria, separated from her twin brother Sebastian, charmingly played by Daniel Caraballo, whom she assumes is dead. To survive in this strange land, she poses as a male servant to Duke Orsino, played by Christopher Richards. Called “Cesario,” she is asked to be an intermediary between the duke and the object of his love, Lady Olivia, played by Nicole Perrone.

When “Cesario” is sent by the Duke to talk to Oliva, a romantic web ensues.

Viola arrives disguised at Oliva’s manor and is described to Oliva as “not old enough a man, not young enough a boy.”

Upon her entrance, Viola uses eloquent speech to charm not only Olivia, but her attendees. Viola’s disguise, “Cesario,” is so spot-on that Olivia becomes absolutely smitten, making clear to the audience that her skepticism of his motives has shifted to a desire for his return, despite her apathy to the Duke’s message.

Adding to the confusion caused by the disguises, Viola falls in love with the duke, despite the fact that he believes her to be a boy. Her gaze at him is obvious behind her disguise. It almost pains one to know she would do anything to please him, including serenading him, even though he talks of nothing but Olivia.

Meanwhile, the subplot brings comic relief to the already comedic piece through ridiculous physical humor. One need not even listen to the words of these characters, as entertainment comes simply from their acting and random bursts of song, dance and obscurity. This light-heartedness becomes more meaningful as the plot and characters’ scheming progress, allowing the actors to show more complexity and layers.

The humor in the play’s situations are given a “dramatic relief” through sentimental moments, such as when the duke is entertained by the soft song of his joker, Feste, played fantastically by Danny Lindenberger. The moment grows more and more touching, until intensity reaches its peak when the duke and “Cesario” correspond about the depths of love. The movement from hilarity to brief dramatic moments is very natural, thanks to the actors.

Throughout the play, the actors are so expressive and lively that one forgets the actors are speaking in Elizabethan English. The physical expression and stage movement allows a non-Shakespearean to get a feel for the plot easily. The use of the minimalist stage is amazing. The highs and lows of the actors voices sound like music to the ears, luring the audience into a hypnotic, mesmerized state throughout both funny and touching moments.

As a person not accustomed to Shakespeare, the performance was easy to understand and captivating because of the fluidity of sound, lighting, stage and acting.

Contact all correspondent Brenna McNamara at [email protected].