When you tune in early to the IU Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, March 2-6, you’ll get a discussion of the steps leading up to the production.
Scenic designer Spencer Donovan’s explanation of the gracefully sketched in back drops prepared me to see the play and the players. Lighting designers from the faculty Allen Hahn and student Lilly Howder prepared me as well.
Kudos to Valeriya Nedviga for her sound design with the setting of Feste’s songs and the general background sounds. I especially enjoyed the birds outside Olivia’s house.
Designer Rachel Saylor’s comments about her thesis, setting the show in the seventy’s and going for an androgenous look helped me see. Those along with Madi Bell’s insights into the cutting and draping of the costumes were enriching.
Finally, it was time for the faculty director and adapter Henry Woronicz to comment on the background of Twelfth Night. He told us that it really doesn’t have anything to do with Christmas and that the subtitle “What You Will” didn’t appear on the cover of either of his copies. He suggested, with a bow to the seventies, “What Ever.”
Then the introduction, the tribute to the Indian Tribes displaced by the University, the thanks for the support of the Theatre Circle and donors, etc.
Gavin W. Douglas as prince Orsino gets those first line…” I music be the food of love, play on…” Clearly, he’s not about to let the guitarist continue and he’s not having great success in his courting on princess Olivia.
Then it’s to Anna Doyle as the washed-up Viola on the beach with Sophia Salevsky as the captain of the foundered ship. He reassures Viola that her brother Sebastian had lashed himself to a mast and might have been saved as well.
She decides to clothe herself in men’s attire as Cesario and to join the household of Orsino. Orsino quickly chooses her as his go-between with Olivia, Isabelle Gardo who falls in love with this uncomfortable message bearer.
Meanwhile it’s Daniel Meek’s as the roistering Sir Toby Belch encouraging the foolish Bobby Coyne as Sir Andrew Aguecheek to woo Olivia with bawdy suggestions. The maid Maria, Emily Davis tries to put a cap on their foolishness, and she’ll be drawn into it later.
The first act draws to a close for ten minutes and I get another cup of coffee as I know that Malvolio, Christopher Plonka’s relatively cruel come-uppance is coming soon.
Maria suggests to Toby, Sir Andrew, and Sophia Salevsky, now Fabian, a ruse to have Malvolio come to princess Olivia with smiles, yellow stockings-which she hates-and cross garters-which she abhors. The results leave Malvolio confused. Confined to a dark room with the clever comedian and singer Feste, Antoinette Pompe van Meerdevort appearing with the voice of Sir Tophat to chide him. It’s enough to make a man mad and it mostly does.
Meanwhile Toby and Maria are setting Sir Andrew and Cesario for a dual upon some sort of pretext. When it finally does…after much bickering and bantering, happen…it is put to a stop by the watch.
This is a comedy and with a lot of flowery language…it is Shakespeare…Sebastian, Viola’s brother though the wonder of zoom, appears. Princess Olivia is appeased with this new masculine twin. Prince Orsino realizes that he’s been falling for Viola.
And in a scene with all the cast including a smiling Malvolio and a rueful Sir Andrew there’s a happy ending.
I did wish for Sir Toby to marry the clever Maria, but that got cut.
The production was a real attempt to keep actors apart while putting them together on screen. It was the most complex use of the medium that I’ve seen so far. Mostly, it worked though there were moments that left me a bit confused.
Of the cast I especially enjoyed Daniel Meeks as a full voice Sir Toby. Antoinette Pompe van Meerdevort was always a pleasure as the clever songful Feste the clown.
The IU Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance’s production of Twelfth Night directed by Henry Woronicz plays through Saturday. Zoom tickets are available through the Department. Do dial in early for the tech stuff.
Working from home, I’m George Walker