by Lynn on July 16, 2017

in The Passionate Playgoer

At the Amphitheatre in High Park, Toronto, Ont.

Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Tanja Jacobs
Set by Claire Hill
Costumes and props by Victoria Wallace
Lighting by Rebecca Picherack
Sound by Lyon Smith
Musical Director, Dan Rutzen
Cast: Jenni Burke
Jason Cadieux
Brett Dahl
Diane D’Aquila
Peter Fernandes
Kristiaan Hansen
Richard Lee
Michael Mann
Robert Persichini
Amelia Sargisson
Naomi Wright
Hannah Wayne-Phillips

A delightful, thoughtful production that does not ignore the darker parts of the play.

The Story. Count Orsino is in love with Olivia who ignores him because she’s in mourning for her recently deceased brother. Orsino persists. Into his employ comes a young man named Cesario. In fact it’s really a young woman named Viola who was in a shipwreck and got separated from her twin brother Sebastian and thinks him dead. She hears about Orsino and dresses as a boy to get a job working for him. Orsino asks Cesario to plead his case to Olivia. Olivia in turn becomes smitten with Cesario.

A subplot is Olivia’s uncle, Sir Toby Belch, a drunken lout, his friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek, who is trying to woo Olivia and Malvolio, Olivia’s imperious major domo of sorts. Sir Toby and company bedevil Malvolio and play tricks on him because they are mean.

The Production. Twelfth Night plays in rep with King Lear. This is the 35th season for Shakespeare in High Park and as such they marked the occasion with cake and popcorn at the opening of King Lear. They also had a bit of extra drama they didn’t need. Robert Persichini, a wonderful actor, who was to play the Fool in King Lear and Malvolio in Twelfth Night, was taken ill and couldn’t do either performance. The director for King Lear, Alistair Newton, read the part of the Fool in costume and make-up. Similarly Tanja Jacobs, the director of Twelfth Night read the part of Malvolio in costume, wig and makeup. I love the whole notion that the show must go on if at all possible. Everybody pulls together and the critics know to have compassion and flexibility in such a situation.

Director Tanja Jacobs has set the play in the Hotel Illyria. This gives the play a sense of a quick pace as hotel staff and guests scurry from one intrigue to another.

Orsino (Richard Lee) is a suave, dashing man in either a bathrobe, track suit, or spiffy duds, moping around the place, hoping for a smile from Olivia. Olivia (Naomi Wright) seems to run the place with efficiency and exasperation at being bothered by Orsino’s entreaties and her uncle’s shenanigans. She is absolutely besotted with Cesario and her whole prim manner changes into a giddy, distracted woman. As Cesario, Amelia Sargisson is that lovely mix of boyish and feminine, because Cesario is really Viola in disguise. Sargisson walks that fine line between both identities and charms and attracts both Orsino and Olivia. As Sir Toby, Jason Cadieux is loud, loutish and always staggering with the effects of drink. He is ably joined by Peter Fernandes as the hapless Sir Andrew. As Fabiana, the hotel beautician, Diane D’Aquila plays her as a cigarette smoking busy-body with a wicked sense of irreverence. As Feste, Jenni Burke is a sassy, flippant Feste who smiles through life making fun of everything. Even reading the part of Malvolio, Tanja Jacobs captures Malvolio’s disdain and humour.

Humour with an edge suffuses Tanja Jacobs’ buoyant production. It’s full of intelligent detail, irreverent wit and the unsettling feeling that often we are laughing at the shenanigans of Sir Toby and company when we should be looking at them with knitted eye-brows. I love being unsettled by work this good.

Comment. The setting in High Park is lovely; the atmosphere is good natured fun. Shakespeare in High Park also attracts the most attentive audiences. I think it’s a good way to become familiar with Shakespeare and his plays and with Twelfth Night you get lots of laughs with plenty of serious things to ponder.

Produced by Canadian Stage.

Opened: July 14, 2017.
Closes: Sept. 3, 2017.
Cast: 12: 7 men, 5 women
Running Time: 90 minutes, no intermission.

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