By David Walters

“If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.”

The central plot revolves around the twins Viola and Sebastian who are separated in a shipwreck.  Viola, disguised as Cesario, falls in love with Duke Orsino, who in turn is in love with the Countess Olivia.  Upon meeting Cesario/Viola, Countess Olivia falls in love with her thinking she is a man.  Sebastian gets mistaken for Cesario and Cesario for Sebastian until all is revealed and the lovers unite.

The title, Twelfth Night, references the twelfth night after Christmas Day, called the Eve of the Feast of Epiphany, which was the close of the Christmas season.   It was a Christian holiday and like other religious feast days an excuse to party.  On this day servants often dressed up as their masters, men as women and vice versa.  The history of this festive mayhem and Carnivalesque reversal is the origin of the play’s gender confusion-driven plot, incorporating several musical interludes, trickery and riotous disorder expected of this holiday time of year.

I just gave you a little history of Twelfth Night to set a jumping off point of where theatre creators begin in presenting this play.  It’s mayhem, trickery, confusion, and bawdy gaudy ribaldry.

It’s hard to write a review when you see the potential, and you see the talent, and you see the possibilities, but what gets presented to you just doesn’t quite gel.

I wanted to see the fun of the play.  That’s why I brought my 10-year old daughter (who has read the play several times) whose comment, “It was better than walking around in the cold, but I wish we had seen something else,” sort of sums it up.

There is talent there, although heavily bridled, and occasionally it pops through in fits and starts chomping at the bit to get out.  That’s what made it the most frustrating, the potential is there.

This observation might best symbolize my experience: the set is a white projection screen filling all of upstage that is utilized wonderfully with color and clouds throughout the production.  On the floor in front of the screen are several carpets and two large groupings of ladders, many ferns, a phone, frames, a clock, books, and chairs all painted with a thin coat of green.  All well and good, attractive, plenty of material to work and play with, but it was never really used.  It is all just set dressing.

I wanted to have a full festive time of year.

Twelfth Night – Written by William Shakespeare; Directed by Lynnea Benson

WITH: Jonathan Reed Wexler (Orsino), Alyssa Diamond (Viola), Karoline Patrick (Olivia), Kevin Hauver (Sir Toby Belch), Amy Frances Quint (Maria), Jamar Brathwaite (Sir Andrew Aguecheek), Steve Mazzoccone (Feste), Richard James Porter (Malvolio), Steven Ungar (Fabian), Kyle Primack (Sebastian), John L. Payne (Antonio), Dani Franco (Curio), Blake Kelton Prentiss (Valentine), Shashwat Gupta (Sea Captain, Priest), Martin Bodenheimer (Sailor, Constable), Daniel Garcia (Sailor, Constable).

Costume and Set Design by Asa Benally; Lighting Design by Dennis Parichy; Fight Choreography by Marcus Watson, Dance Choreography by Geneva Jenkins; Music composed by Ted Zurkowski.

Running time: Approximately 120 minutes with one intermission.

Currently playing at the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture until March 17, 2019.