“Conceal me what I am, and be my aid for such disguise as haply shall become the form of my intent.”
Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, directed by Carmen Khan, is a comedic meditation on romantic delusion. We have a woman disguised as a man. We have a lady who is desperately in love with “him” but pretending to be in grave mourning; a duke who believes he is madly in love with the lady across town, while (unknown to himself) he truly loves the person at his side, whom he doesn’t realize is female; a terrified goose of a man challenging another man to a duel. And much, much more. Put all these people together and you have an irresistible, poignant symphony of miscommunication, misconception and non-comprehension, all fueled by romantic desire.
Directed by Carmen Khan
(*Preview performance: Thursday, April 14)
This play is recommended for ages 8+. Estimated runtime: 2 hours and 30 minutes, including a 15 minute intermission.
Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, also known as What You Will, is a comedy, which centers on mistaken identity.
LOVE STRUCK: Orsino, the Duke of Illyria, is deeply, madly in love with the Lady Olivia. She refuses to see him because she is mourning the recent death of her brother. Orsino doesn’t actually come in person to see her, but sends his servants to woo on his behalf.
SHIPWRECKED: Viola is shipwrecked and lands on the shores of Illyria. She was travelling with her brother Sebastian who seems to be lost at sea. She decides to disguise herself as a man and seek employment with Duke Orsino. She calls herself Cesario.
CLOWNING AROUND: Feste is Olivia’s clown and has been missing for days. Everyone is angry at him, especially Olivia who orders him to be thrown out of the house. This pleases the uptight and puritanical Malvolio (Olivia’s butler and head of the servants, who is secretly in love with Olivia). Feste though is a master of clever repartee, and quickly wins Olivia back, much to the chagrin of Malvolio.
COURTING COMPLICATIONS: Cesario (Viola) is sent by the Duke to woo Olivia on his behalf. Viola admits to us that she has fallen in love with Orsino. Olivia tells Cesario (Viola) that she cannot love the Duke and she has said this many times before. When Cesario leaves, Olivia finds herself in a swoon for the young “man”, and sends Malvolio to chase Cesario (Viola) and give “him” a ring (she tells Malvolio the ring was left by Cesario).
MISTAKEN IDENTITIES: Viola realizes Olivia is in love with her? Him? Oh no, Olivia thinks Viola (Cesario) is a man! Meanwhile Viola’s twin brother Sebastian lands safely somewhere else on the island and has made a friend of Antonio (who saved him). He is very sad about losing Viola in the shipwreck and wants to go to Duke Orsino’s court. Antonio confesses to us that he has enemies at Orsino’s court but decides to follow Sebastian anyway.
THE PARTY’S OVER: Sir Toby Belch, Olivia’s dissolute cousin, is conducting a loud drinking and carousing party at Olivia’s house with his gullible friend and drinking buddy, Sir Andrew Aguecheek (who is also in love with Olivia) and Feste. Maria, Olivia’s maid, warns them to be quiet or they will be thrown out of the house. Malvolio interrupts the party and says he is going to report them to Olivia. Sir Toby is incensed by Malvolio’s uppity behavior and they all complain about him. In retaliation, they devise a plan to trick Malvolio into thinking Olivia is in love with him. Malvolio makes a fool of himself while trying to impress Olivia. Sir Toby and his crew then imprison him as punishment for his pompous behavior.
CONFUSION MEETS CLARITY: While this is happening both Orsino and Olivia are falling deeper in love with Cesario/Viola, and Cesario is falling further for Orsino. Sebastian is mistaken for Cesario, and a silly sword fight ensues. In the end identities are revealed, couples are united, and marriages and celebrations follow! A happy ending for everyone, save Malvolio who promises revenge on them all.
*Photo credit: Kendall Whitehouse
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