We all have to make decisions every once in a while that make us decide whether our choice was “worth it”. Is it worth spending more money on a particular purse even if it’s very expensive? Going out to happy hour with work friends instead of eating sensibly and not drinking at home? Bingeing hours of Netflix? The cost-benefit decision that I had to make most recently was for something with low consequences, but which has definitely affected myself later.
This is all by means of introduction to tell you that the Boy and I recently saw the Shakespeare Theatre production of Twelfth Night, which shouldn’t be a surprise with our season tickets. What surprised me about the show was how long it was – although even that shouldn’t have been too surprising since we had been given heads up by my uncle who said he fell asleep during the show – not because it was boring, but because it was long and past his bedtime. There was no falling asleep for us, but looking at our phones for the time at intermission, and then seeing what time it was when the show finished…oof. And yet, it’s all right there on the production website: 2 hours 45 minutes, including an intermission. Then there was the scramble to exit the theater, the walk to the garage where I’d parked my car, and a 10 minute wait at a garage to pay for parking where the newly installed automatic machines were not functioning. We forgot that the boy had to get his car for the school run the next day, and had to go retrieve it, and then the cleaners were coming, and a few last minute things needed to be done. Add on my regular (TOO LONG) bedtime routine, and we shut off the light at midnight, which is hard when you have to wake at 7 the next morning and be functional.
But honestly? The lateness of the hour at which I finally got to bed was partly my own fault, and also the only fault which I can find with this production. I love when STC does classic Shakespeare, and doesn’t put any weird “see how creative we are?” twists on it that are not necessary. It is possible to set a play in modern times, and to keep the play lively, modern, energetic, and WONDERFUL.
Twelfth Night is almost the perfect show to bring into a modern setting – instead of a (sea) ship wreck, our main characters are stranded after a plane crash. In a world in which androgynous dressing is de rigueur, and the stigma of loving those who share your sex is rapidly fading, the play seems to work most excellently. Performing the show, which was likely written for the close of the Christmas season in Shakespeare’s time, during the modern Thanksgiving-Christmas holiday season seems particularly apt. Add on top of that a stellar cast, a creative set, and wonderful music, and you’ve got all the ingredients for a smashing success.
I could talk for quite a while about how lovely and passionate Antoinette Robinson is in her portrayal of Olivia – her ability to appeal so strongly to both Count Orisino and Olivia, to the point where you think that both are in love with her (and it turns out are). Or I could go on about the brilliant comic timing and performance given by Jim Lichtscheidl as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, turning the clueless character into a an amazing washed-up 70s-style prepster with a faux-rock-wannabe edge. He gives an amazingly physical performance and just embodies ridiculousness and the dangers of following blindly the whims of others.
But our favorite performance of the night came from a surprising place. Too often the parts of the fools in Shakespeare’s plays are actually the wisest and most profound, so maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that Heath Saunders in the role of Feste – fool to both Orsino and Olivia – was so amazing. He delivered all lines in a light-hearted and still thoughtful way, had incredible physical presence (being able to embody the different parts that Feste plays in the world of Twelfth Night), and an incredibly talented musician – singing, playing guitar and cello, and doing it all with such amazing heart-wrenching emotion in whatever song he played. On top of this, the Boy and I spotted him in the program ahead of time, and recognized him as someone that we saw on Broadway this summer, when he patrolled the upper balcony during the run of The Great Comet. So not only did we go into the show rooting for someone we had seen before and been charmed by before, we got to be excited when he succeeded so brilliantly.
Am I over-hyping the show and its performances? I don’t think so. It’s a complete sensory feast – the theater is transformed, and even includes seating on the stage area (lucky us got to sit there!). The costumes are decadent and rich in color and detail. The music is wonderful. The performances are great – there’s not a bad one in the bunch, and at the curtain call, the cast runs out together to do the strangest set of bows I’ve seen in a while. But they look like they’re having fun – as they should – and like they ENJOY each other, which is also terrific. What I’m saying is, if you’ve got time and you’re lucky enough to be able to make it to this show, you’re going to have a wonderful time. Definitely worth staying up past your bedtime.