The latest season at the Folger Theatre is wrapping up with one of my favorite Shakespeare comedies: Twelfth Night. With love triangles, mistaken identities, scheming, sword fights and drunken hilarity, Twelfth Night’s storyline is as intricate (and more entertaining) as your average daytime soap opera.
The show opens with a shipwreck that separates Viola and her twin brother Sebastian. Both make it to the shores of Illyria, but separately, leaving them each to believe the other has died at sea. Each is then faced with finding a place in this new land as love approaches their doors. But, in true dramatic and comedic fashion, love comes with unwanted advances, unrequited longing and a household scheming for their own amusement and advancement. After all, this is a comedy more than a love story.
As for those love triangles?
Viola loves Duke Orsino, and Duke Orsino loves Lady Olivia, who loves Cesario, who is really Veolia in disguise as a boy. Enter Veolia’s twin, Sebastian, and the sailor who saved him and is now in love with him. That triangle starts to become quite complicated. If I say any more, I may spoil the fun.
The creation of a storm and sinking ship on a small stage was done in a very dream-like style mixing in some acrobatics that are similar to something you would see at the Trapeze School New York at the Navy Yard. It was beautifully executed, setting the stage for the broader and more humor-filled story. The treatment of the rest of the story was done in a music-filled and fast-paced manner that keeps you thoroughly entertained straight through to the end, even if your ears are slow to adjust to Shakespeare’s language.
One of my favorite things about Shakespeare’s comedies is watching how much fun the actors have with their characters. The supporting characters – Feste (Luis Butelli), Sir Andrew Aguecheek (James Konicek), Sir Toby (Craig Wallace), Malvolio (Richard Sheridan Willis) and Maria (Tonya Beckman) – had the audience laughing out loud throughout the show. Credit is also owed to the rest of the cast — Viola (Emily Trask), Olivia (Rachel Pickup), Sebastian (William Vaughan), Orsino (Michael Brusasco), the piano player Valentine (Joshua Morgan) and Antonio (Chris Genebach) — for a great execution of one of Shakespeare’s more popular plays.
The show is running through June 9th. Get your tickets here. Next season will start on October 15 with Romeo and Juliet, followed by Richard III and Two Gentlemen of Verona.