Shakespeare Theatre’s annual Free For All reprises Twelfth Night.
By Julie LaPorte
Continuing a 19-year tradition of providing free tickets to the general public, the Shakespeare Theatre Company is hosting their annual Free For All event, reviving last seasons’ popular production of Twelfth Night, one of Shakespeare’s greatest comedies. Presented by Target and directed by Alan Paul, Twelfth Night will run through September 5.
“One of the major goals of the Free For All is to make Shakespeare accessible to diverse audiences,” said Artistic Director Michael Kahn. “People who have never been to the theatre, people who are unable to pay for tickets or afford a babysitter, young people, students, people on fixed incomes – they all come to experience the magic of Shakespeare, to see how his words and ideas still resonate with us more than 400 years later.
The play opens as Viola (Christina Pumariega) is washed up on the shores of Illyria after a shipwreck and, believing her twin brother Sebastian to be dead, disguises herself as Cesario and seeks employment in Duke Orsino’s household. Orsino (Gregory Wooddell) is in love with Countess Olivia and sends Cesario to act as his emissary. Olivia (Sarah Agnew) is impatient with Orsino’s amorous pursuits, and instead falls in love with Cesario, who by this time has fallen in love with Orsino. Sebastian (Randy Harrison), still alive, also washes up in Illyria where Olivia mistakes him for Cesario and the two impulsively marry. When Cesario finds her brother alive, she becomes once more Viola and reveals her love to Orsino.
That is simply the main story. There is a subplot involving Olivia’s Uncle Toby (Chuck Cooper) who is attempting to drink her out of house and home; Sir Andrew (Tom Story), an effeminate and ridiculous suitor of Olivia’s; Maria (Nancy Robinette), the meddling, good-natured waiting-gentlewoman; and Fabian (J. Fred Shiffman), an rough-mannered servant. Together, these four bring about an intrigue against Malvolio (Philip Goodwin), an uptight servant who is secretly in love with Olivia. Moving among them all is Feste (Floyd King), a jester whose wisdom and wit provides much of the heart of the play.
This was easily one of the most enjoyable productions I’ve ever seen.
The set was beautiful, primarily a wide sloping expanse, a set of double doors off to the left and a table that lowers in from the ceiling when needed. The lighting washed the stage in rich hues of blue, green and red, setting the ambiance for each scene. And during the final half of the play, poster with luxurious close-ups of red roses fill the stage while the floor is covered in red rose petals – the result was breathtaking. The costumes were rich and decadent, beautifully detailed and added to the personae of each character.
There was no weak link in this production. The barbs and witticisms were released from each character as though from a taut bow, received and flung back without hesitation.
The timing, the physical comedy, the chemistry between actors – everything was spot on. Several of the scenes that really stood out were when Cesario nearly declares her love for Orsino, when Cesario and Sir Andrew face off in a dual, when Malvolio attempts to woo Olivia and the final scene when everything is revealed.
This production is a must-see. For more information and to enter to win free tickets, visit the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s website.
Gregory Wooddell, Christina Pumariega, Randy Harrison, Sarah Agnew, Nancy Robinette, Chuck Cooper, Tom Story, Philip Goodwin, J. Fred Shiffman, Floyd King, Todd Scofield, Larry Bull, Dan Lawrence, Drew Kopas, Maya Jackson, Stacey Jackson, Nancy Flores, Brendon Schaefer, Jude Tibeau
Directed by Alan Paul, set design by Riccardo Hernandez, costume design by Miranda Hoffman, lighting design by Christopher Akerlind, sound design by Martin Desjardins, fight direction by Rick Sordelet, choreography by Daniel Pelzig.