Whidbey Island Theatre Festival presents ‘Twelfth Night’ and ‘The Wrestling Season’

Shows open on two stages

Gender-bending in the old world and homophobia in a new one describe two themes that these teen-aged actors are learning to build their skills around this summer.

Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” is adapted here by Tom Large and Stephen Murray and directed by Eric Mulholland.

In this modern-day version of Shakespeare’s beloved comedy, the sounds of disco, swing, gospel, Latin and hip-hop music propel an outrageous assortment of characters into each other’s arms.

A terrible shipwreck strands young Viola on the beaches of the Caribbean island of Illyria. Desperate to support herself as she searches for Sebastian, her lost twin, she disguises herself as a man named “Cesario.” Before she knows it, she is working for Duke Orsino, taking his love messages to the Countess Olivia.

But the Countess’ estate is a tropical madhouse crammed with eccentric characters. In the midst of this craziness, Viola’s passionate messages of love are unexpectedly successful and the Countess Olivia falls hopelessly in love with Cesario! Viola? No, Cesario. (But really Viola.)

And don’t forget the bumbling pirates who rescue Sebastian, an extreme makeover performed by the servant girls and the “exorcism” conducted by the dancing “holy women.”

Like the holiday from which it takes its name, this musical is an exuberant feast bursting with hijinks, masquerades and revelry.

“If music be the food of love, play on!”

This production is recommended for all ages.

“The Wrestling Season,” by writer Laurie Brooks and directed by Deana Duncan, tackles subject matter seldom addressed but vital to children and their families: peer pressure, the search for identity and the destructive power of rumors.

Using only the setting of a wrestling mat, eight young people struggle with the destructive power of rumors and how others see them.

This is Matt’s year to excel on his high school wrestling team, but innuendo about his friendship with Luke causes Matt to question himself and his priorities. Kori wants to be accepted for who she is, not the way she looks. Melanie copes with a reputation she cannot grow beyond. Jolt and Heather ultimately regret having too much too soon. And Nicole has so little self-esteem that she agrees with everyone.

The action is overseen by The Referee, who comments on the action from inside and outside the drama with hand signals and commands. Using images, movement and sound, cast members function as a chorus and as individual characters whose stories are entwined to create a theatrical event that reveals their search for identity.

Due to mature themes, this play is recommended for ages

12 and older.

“Twelfth Night” runs at 2 p.m. today and tomorrow and at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 8 and Saturday, Aug. 9 at Whidbey Island Center for the Arts. Tickets are $12.

“The Wrestling Season” will play at 7:30 p.m. tonight and tomorrow at Whidbey Children’s Theater. Tickets are $10.

For tickets visit www.WICAonline, or call 221-8268.