William Shakespeare wrote “Twelfth Night” for the Christmas season. So, even though Hold Thy Peace normally produces a show in October, it only made sense to put on a performance in early December to entertain students before they drown in papers and finals. In HTP’s abridged “Twelfth Night,” twins Viola and Sebastian are separated during a shipwreck. Believing that her brother has perished, Viola arrives in the foreign town of Illyria takes on the identity of a pageboy named Cesario to work for the duke Orsino, who is in love with a countess Olivia. However, Olivia does not return these feelings and finds herself attracted to Cesario. The majority of the play is about the love triangle between Viola/Cesario, Olivia and Orsino.

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STUPOR: Sir Andrew (Eli Esrig ’19) and Sir Toby (Ryan Sands ’19) lay on the ground in a drunken haze.

Standout performances came from Eliana Weiss ’21 as Viola, Daniel Souza ’19 as Orsino, Alex Wu ’19 as Malvolio and Rachael Greene ’20 as Olivia. Weiss did a phenomenal job playing Viola /Cesario — one felt secondhand stress watching Viola realize that Olivia, the woman her master (Souza) was attempting to woo, was in love with her alter ego Cesario. One scene in which Olivia tries to seduce Cesario was especially hilarious, as Greene turned Olivia’s love sickness and cluelessness into the comedic highlight of the show. As for Wu, she had a fantastic stage presence; whenever she sauntered onto the scene, all eyes were on her. Malvolio’s stoicism came through beautifully, as well as his unabashed giddiness upon mistakenly realizing that Olivia had feelings for him. 

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MARVELOUS MALVOLIO: Alex Wu ’19 as Malvolio gives Sebastian Olivia’s ring at her request, as a token of her attraction.

The Merrick Theater was an ideal location for this show because the brightness added to the cheerfulness of the play. The Merrick also has a lot of open space and the director definitely took advantage of that. The director of “Twelfth Night,” Gabe Walker ’19, did a great job. In his Director’s Note, he wrote that he chose “Twelfth Night” for its relatable characters and the fact that it was “genuinely funny.” For comedic effect, actors jumped around, rolled on the floor and ran across the room. Sir Toby (Ryan Rands ’19), Sir Andrew (Eli Esrig ’19) and Feste’s (Sophia Massidda ’20) performances involved the most slapstick. From the beginning of the play, Massidda showed off her musical talent and she continued to do so throughout the night, singing songs and strumming her guitar. Massidda designed the show’s eye-popping costumes. The choice of color for each character enhanced their performance: black for the melancholy characters of Oliva, Malvolio and Maria (Caitlin Crane-Moscowitz), a mixture of bright colors for the comedic characters (Feste, Toby and Andrew) and purple for the twins (Viola and Sebastian).

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SONG AND DANCE: Sophia Massida ’20, playing Feste, delighted theater-goers with both original and covered music.

Another subplot in the play was Sebastian (Seth Wulf ’21) trying to get by post-shipwreck with his friend Antonio (Lauren Komer ’20). Komer and Wulf had great chemistry together, and when all the characters united in the end, the audience felt moved by the genuine reunion of the loved ones. 

The show ended as it began, with Massidda singing. However, this time she was joined by the rest of the cast before they took a bow and tossed rose petals in the air. Overall, Twelfth Night was a hilarious and memorable way to cheer students up for the Yuletide season.