Twelfth Night; Or What You Will' takes an outside forum to shine
Mixed-up twins. Physical comedy. Drunk knights. Trying to find true love. And, of course, bright yellow stockings. These were just some of the plot highlights in Twelfth Night; Or What You Will, a student production co-sponsored by the Brandeis Office of the Arts and the Brandeis department of the Theater Arts, put on as part of the Leonard Bernstein Festival of the Arts.
The audience sat on blankets and lawn chairs outside the Foster Gal- lery at the Rose Art Museum. The set was simple, mostly made up of a large wooden structure with steps and a low tower.
Beer bottles filled with sand and mason jars holding electric candles lined the stage and formed aisles through the audience for the actors to come and go. The nautical details to the set and the costumes that mixed modern and period gave a casual feel to the production.
However, the occasional turkey or car horn could occasionally disrupt the performance.
In the play, Viola, played by Morgan Winters '17 is a young woman shipwrecked in a foreign land, Illyria. In order to survive, she disguises herself as a boy named Curio and goes to work for Duke Orsino (Ryan Kacani '15) and quickly falls in love with him. However, Orsino is in love with Olivia (Caley Chase '16), who is mourning her dead brother and refuses to love anyone.
Orsino sends Viola to court Olivia on his behalf, but in a comic twist, Olivia falls in love with Viola/Curio, thinking she is a man. Winters and Chase had hilarious counterpoint in every scene when Olivia tried to flirt with the clearly uncomfortable Viola. Kacani captured the completely oblivious Duke perfectly, making the audience both laugh and feel bad for the lovestruck Viola.
Sir Toby Belch (Justy Kosek '14), Olivia's drunken uncle, is trying to set up his young, equally drunken and stupid friend, Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Levi Squier '14) with Olivia. However, after Malvolio (Aaron Fischer '15) scolds the two of them for drunkenly singing late at night, Toby and Andrew set up a plan with the fool Feste (Jamie Semel '17) and Olivia's maid Maria (Grace Fosler '14) to get revenge on Malvolio by tricking him into thinking Olivia is in love with him.
Kosek and Squier played drunken idiots perfectly, slightly slurring their speech and staggering around, getting laughs from the crowd every single time they came on stage.
Fischer was my personal favorite cast member. His Malvolio was hilarious, transforming from stiff and stuck-up to love-struck and ridiculous, prancing around the stage and clicking his heels.
His mannerisms were especially excellent in his many scenes with Semel, who made Feste an intelligent prankster and a foil to both Malvolio and the two drunkards. The story only gets more complicated as Sebastian (David Getz '15) and Antonio (Alex Davis '15) come to Illyria. Sebastian is Viola's twin brother and everyone confuses the two of them, including Olivia, who proposes marriage to Sebastian/ Curio, leading to further mayhem. The duke is heartbroken, Viola confused, and at Toby's urging, Andrew challenges Viola to a duel.
The duel scene was one of the strongest scene in the show, thanks in part to Kacani and Kosek's fight choreography. Winters and Squier minced and timidly jumped back and forth, shrieking any time their swords hit. Although not one of the main actors, Davis was utterly hilarious in his portrayal of Antonio, making silly faces at the audience and even occasionally ad-libing lines as he went on and off stage.
Getz brought characterization to a more minor role as well; in a memorable scene, Getz sneaks back on stage, partially undressed, after leaving with Olivia. Getz played up the sexual humor with a swagger and plenty of winks towards the audience.
As with any Shakespearean comedy, everything ends with all the loose ends tied up. Sebastian and Viola run into each other and Viola is finally able to tell the Duke that she is, in fact, a woman.
The Duke improbably falls in love with Viola as soon as he learns she is a girl. The two couples, Orsino and Viola and Sebastian and Olivia, get married. Malvolio learns that Feste, Toby and Andrew played a prank on him and is forgiven by Olivia. Compared to the rest of the play, the ending was a little bit flat, although that was not the fault of the actors.
After all the mayhem, ending with a wedding just wasn't quite as exciting as the rest of the play. In a fun twist, rather than taking a traditional bow, the cast ran back on stage, led by Semel, singing and dancing, before thanking the production staff.
This year's production of Twelfth Night brought a refreshing perspective to a classic Shakespeare play and had the audience in stitches for most of the show.