Photo by Chris Bennion
After five years of not performing Shakespeare at the Seattle Repertory Theatre this performance of Twelfe Night leaves the audience wondering “Why not?” The combination of the set, scene changes, and a modern twist gave the appearance of modern day while still capturing Shakespeare’s language. “If music be the food of love play on.” This is one of Shakespeare’s most famous quotes from the Twelfe Night. This play at the Seattle Rep shows that there can be no excess of love - though there are other things that you can have excess of, including merriment at others expense, drink, and food.
The title refers to the Feast of the Epiphany, which occurs on the twelfth night after Christmas. On this holiday, which is associated with the Roman festival of Saturnalia, you could do or be whatever you wanted, which normally led to excess. Twelfe Night is one of Shakespeare’s truest accounts of the persistence of love and how fate draws people together. These lovers will do anything to find each other’s arms. What do you expect when a woman dresses as a man and then falls in love with her master? It only gets worse when the person that she is courting for her master falls in love with her. Then on top of that her twin brother appears to return from the depths of the ocean. With all this comedic confusion who wouldn’t be laughing?
Most of the performance was placed outside. This is a traditional element that complements Shakespeare’s work. The hill between upstage and downstage allowed for perfect transitions between scenes. Though I’m sure it must have presented a problem in rehearsals, it showed a lot about each character. How they approached this obstacle - either climbing and balancing on it, or clawing their way up - showed what kind of person they were. This treacherous walkway was accented in the middle by a door through which messages or people of importance presented themselves. It was astonishing how, although the set was filled with bright colors, they only caught the audience’s attention at the perfect moment each time. The lights seemed never to change and yet always be striking in the way they reflected the actors’ emotions. The use of a backdrop of sky with such vivid colors made it feel like you were watching this performance outside the way that Shakespeare was traditionally played, and yet it gave it its own flare.
You could hear the slight intake of breath when Cheyenne Casebier, who plays Olivia, came flowing through the door with the masterpiece of a dress she wore. It seemed to flow around her like a liquid of exquisite color, almost taking up the entire stage, and yet she could move effortlessly. This was a stark contrast to the ridiculously bright yellow stockings with cross-gartering worn by Malvolio, played by Frank X, which didn’t leave a soul in the audience without laughter. The mixture of up-to-date clothing with classical style accented the character’s choices. The wardrobe for the incarnation of Marilyn Manson made his music come to life as if it were a character itself.
Though the transitions follow Shakespeare classic format of having one scene smoothly transition to the next without a break, some other elements stuck out. In the beginning there were characters that had no purpose on stage that just seemed to distract from the people speaking on stage. Also certain events overlapped, including the time that Fabian, played by Nick Garrison, was puking off the side of the stage, where important dialogue was lost. These overlaps made the audience pay more attention to the comedic elements instead of the serious ones that were supposed to be the main focus.
There was no doubt that most of the actors were professionally trained Shakespearians. David Pichette’s performance as Feste the clown bridged the modern elements with the old English to the point that Shakespeare poetry seemed to be the speech of everyday life. Though a couple of intentions were lost in the beginning, the audience was won by the end. It was uncanny the way that the actors could convey Shakespeare’s meaning to even the people least familiar with old English.
Overall this was a wonderful performance of Twelfe Night. It stayed true to Shakespeare’s meaning while combining modern elements. Each piece of the production was put together amazingly to form a complete picture of the director’s vision. I would recommend this show to anyone that wants to laugh heartily and still go away with a deep message.
Jenny B., age 18
Twelfe Night*, Or What You Will
Seattle Repertory Theatre
September 13 – October 20
More info and show times: www.seattlerep.org
Seattle Rep’s Ticket Office: 206-443-2222
Ticket Office Hours: Daily, noon – performance time
Note: This production contains sexual undertones and brief nudity. For more information on content, please contact Seattle Rep directly.
Seattle Rep is located at 155 Mercer Street, on the North edge of Seattle Center. It is served by buses 1,2,3,4,13,15,16,18,45, 74 and 85. For bus times:
*In case you wondered if we've lost our ability to spell, The Rep has decided to use Shakespeare's first folio spelling of Twelfe Night. Thanks for noticing!
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