Saturday, March 19, 2016

Review of Short Shakespeare! Twelfth Night at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Short Shakespeare! Twelfth Night. It was by William Shakespeare and it was adapted and directed by Kirsten Kelly. It was about This girl named Viola (Rebecca Hurd) who had been shipwrecked and thought that her brother Sebastian (Nate Santana) was dead, so she decided to dress up as a boy, change her name to Cesario, and serve Illyria's Duke, Orsino (Neal Moeller). But she falls in love with the Duke who is in love with the Countess Olivia (Krystel Lucas). And when Viola is going to tell Olivia of the Duke's love, Olivia falls in love with Cesario. And of course there are many antics by Olivia's servants, Malvolio (La Shawn Banks), Maria (Lydia Berger Gray), Fabian (Donovan Diaz), and Feste (Will Mobley), and by her Uncle Sir Toby Belch (Ronald Conner) and his friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Dominic Conti). I thought that this was a really great and funny show. It felt like a very modernized and relatable version of Twelfth Night. I found it really fun and funny and I really loved it.

Usually the best part of Twelfth Night, in my opinion, is the elaborate prank that they play on Malvolio. I felt this part of the show exceeded my expectation. All of the actors were just too funny and whenever Malvolio was on stage, I would just start laughing hysterically. I found him so hilarious. Sometimes you hate Malvolio and think he deserves what he gets, but in this case I felt very sorry for him. He wants to have some power, which isn't wrong. Feeling powerless isn't a good thing to feel. I think he thinks he deserves more power because he works so hard, but that makes him vulnerable to the prank because he thinks "This time has been coming for so long." When Malvolio thinks that he has found out that Olivia has feelings for him, he sings and dances out of the room and he is squealing and it made me feel happy and sad for him, because I know what is coming. That usually isn't his character; his character is usually very serious and forbids any kind of fun from happening. And suddenly he is having the time of his life! I don't have much sympathy for the people playing the prank on him. He was just trying to get some order in the place. They are right that he would have more fun if he relaxed, but they didn't have to pretend he was put in an insane asylum. Eventually they do realize they've gone too far. I thought that it was hilarious when they were all hiding out in the piano and Malvolio was so overcome with love that he didn't even notice Sir Toby Belch planking on the piano bench!

Viola was a very relatable character for me because she had very excitable and overreacting moments. Like I found her facial expressions when Orsino put his head on her lap very funny and I could relate to it. When someone you have a crush on holds your hand, you kind of have a moment of "Oh my gosh. I can't believe this is happening!" I liked that this Viola seemed pretty comfortable being a boy because I am not a huge fan of when actors playing Viola are kind of shaky and their Viola keeps forgetting that she's pretending to be a boy. The actor found the funny parts of Viola without having to forget and then realize. She acted like a boy except when she was alone and then she would swap. I loved how she would just take any signs of friendship, like entrusting her with a secret, from Orsino into signs of love and turn little things into big things. And the way she interacted with Olivia was that she just tried to convince her that Cesario wasn't as great as Olivia thought he was. I also thought Olivia was hilarious but not in the same way. She also interpreted anything as signs of love but she was also a lot more sassy than Viola which was another reason I love Olivia so much. And I feel like the actress portrayed the character spot on, with a lot of sass but also a little bit of a sweet side. She is not exactly mean, she is more trying to keep her life normal. I've seen a lot of Olivias that are pretty haughty, but this one wasn't as haughty. So you didn't wonder so much, "Why does everyone like Olivia so much?"

I feel like Sebastian is sometimes thought of as a thankless role. The character doesn't have a lot to do and you don't get to know much about him. I felt like Sebastian in this production, though, made me pay attention to how he felt and not just think of him as the brother of Viola. He put depth into his lines and even though he didn't have a lot of time on stage you could see that he felt close to Viola and was sad about her supposed death, but I think he was trying to get over it because he knew Viola wouldn't want him to be depressed and not marry anyone for seven years like Olivia. Antonio (Lynn Robert Berg), who rescues Sebastian from his watery grave, is always a very very small role and I thought this adaptation gave him even less to work with than the original uncut play. My favorite versions of Antonio shows he has affection for Sebastian that might be romantic, and I didn't get that very much here, I think because he didn't have very much stage time to develop that relationship. But I did really like the adaptation overall because it focused on the comedy of the crushes of many of the characters and it didn't focus so much on actual serious relationships. It is a little more like a teen or tween experience.

People who would like this show are people who like giddy squealing, relatable Shakespeare, and planking on piano benches. I think people should definitely definitely go see this show. This is one of my favorite Twelfth Nights I have ever seen. When I think of it I still giggle.

Photos: Charles Osgood

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