This term’s biggest party wasn’t at the weekly senior meeting or a fraternity house. Instead, it took place on Harbach stage with the premiere of “Twelfth Night” this past Wednesday, Feb. 22.
Directed by Professor and Chair of Theatre Liz Carlin-Metz, “Twelfth Night” was a full-on revelry before the show even began as four musicians and assorted cast members danced and fooled their way across the stage, creating the setting of Carnival in an Italian plaza. The antics of the characters — many adorned in masks and flirting and teasing without regard for gender — had the audience in stitches long before the house lights went down.
Once they did go down, however, the laughter didn’t stop. Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” tells a story of mistaken identity, as the shipwrecked Viola (junior Avery Wigglesworth), disguised as a boy, is employed by her new master, the Duke Orsino (senior Jack Dryden) to declare his love to the Lady Olivia (junior Rose Dolezal). Unfortunately for all involved, however, Olivia instead falls for the disguised Viola, who harbors secret feelings for the Duke. Throw in a few mischievous relatives, servants and other would-be suitors, all determined to contribute their own bits of chaos, and the stage was set for a story any audience could appreciate.
And the story was told expertly. One would be hard-pressed to name a weak member of the cast, all of whom managed to translate Shakespearean verse and speech patterns into something modern audiences could connect to. Senior Nellie Ognavgevic, playing the jester Feste, shone in a role that was almost that of a narrator, bringing a sharpness and clarity to the wit of her character. The mismatched friendship of Sir Toby Belch (senior Robert Carey) and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (senior Issac Miller) never failed to amuse and a touching scene between Dryden and Wigglesworth served to highlight the deeper feelings of love running underneath the comedy.
It was senior Alex Lindgren in the role of Malvolio, however, who stole the show. Overdramatic, uptight, vain and utterly foolish, every gesture drew out his character and provided perfect comedic timing.
No small credit should be given to the creative team working behind the scenes. The color of the costumes and the set added to the brilliance of the Carnival setting and created a festive mood that kept the show enjoyable from start to end. The music and the antics of the musicians and revelers (some on stilts), however, was what truly brought “Twelfth Night” to life. Providing an engaging atmosphere, it brought the story off the page and into real life.
There is nothing to regret after seeing this term’s mainstage. The only regret would be not seeing it twice.