Fools, all, for love — 'Twelfth Night' to open in Langley
April 7, 2011 · 11:31 AM
If it’s a satisfying romantic comedy you’re after, head down to Whidbey Island Center for the Arts and see William Shakespeare’s gender-bending, romantic comedy “Twelfth Night.” The play opens Friday, April 8.
As he does in his earlier comedies, Shakespeare celebrates romantic love in “Twelfth Night.” The play is a traditional Elizabethan romantic comedy in that it uses common devices — mistaken identity, separated twins and gender-crossing disguise — and its plot revolves around overcoming obstacles to find “true” love.
Set in the magical Mediterranean kingdom of Illyria, “Twelfth Night” follows Viola, a shipwreck survivor determined to make her way in her new homeland. Viola has lost contact with her twin brother, Sebastian, whom she believes to be dead at sea. Under the guise of a man she calls “Cesario,” she becomes a page to Duke Orsino, who is in love with Countess Olivia.
Melanie Lowey plays Viola, a part she agreed was one of the best ever written for a woman by Shakespeare. But she insists that what makes it funny is not the cross-dressing.
“The comedy is not in the drag, it’s in the words and conversation,” Lowey said.
“I’m so thrilled to play this part, and the most challenging thing for me is taking this beautiful poetry and meter of Shakespeare’s words and making it authentic with emotion. The hardest thing is being really honest with the poetry,” she said.
Amid all that beautiful poetry, the households of both Orsino and Olivia have become consumed with love, lust and romance. Even the servants become tangled in love’s wake.
As in some of the other playwright’s comedies, there is a subplot in which a self-inflated sour character (here it is the steward Malvolio, played by Kent Junge) is brought to his knees through a trick orchestrated by an irreverent and also self-inflated character, often one of Shakespeare’s clowns and in this case, Sir Toby Belch, played by Tom Churchill.
“I think for a comedy “Twelfth Night” has some different characteristics than a lot of the other comedies,” Lowey said. “It has a lot of very dark moments. I mean, poor Malvolio is sorely abused.”
But the romantic edge is there from the start, and Shakespeare prepares the audience for a play full of characters chasing love. He opens the play with Orsino pining for Olivia, who refuses to see any man while in mourning for her father and brother:
“If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again! it had a dying fall:
O, it came o’er my ear like the sweet sound,
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour! Enough; no more:
‘Tis not so sweet now as it was before ...”
Amid all the wrangling, nobody is quite sure who loves whom. After Viola disguises herself and falls in love with Orsino, she becomes entangled in an awkward romantic triangle. Things come unglued, but in that way that only the Bard can write it, Shakespeare’s treasured comedy ends happily for almost everyone.
Lowey said that for her, “Twelfth Night” is one of Bard’s most accessible plays.
“This is probably my favorite Shakespearean comedy,” Lowey said.
“I would recommend it to everyone, even those who don’t yet know Shakespeare.”
Roaring, rollicking and romantic, “Twelfth Night” is a funny and enjoyable concoction of cross-dressing confusion topped with a satisfying dose of requited love.
“Twelfth Night” is directed by Tristan Steel, with actors Ethan Berkley, Morgan Bondelid, Steve Ford, Sophia Larson-Wickman, David Mayer, Nicole Parnell, Andrew Pearce, Brian Plebanek, Larry Woolworth, Dwight Zehm, Mackenna Kelly, Brooke Sinclair, Noelle Weiner, Junge, Lowey and Churchill.
The creative team includes musical director Robert Prosch, set design by David Gignac, costumer Valerie Johnson and lighting design by John Pultro and Alex Wren. Kathy Stanley is the production’s stage manager.
Tickets range in price from $12 to $16, with discounts available for seniors, military, youths and groups, and are available at www.WICAonline.com or by calling 221-8268.