I have had the pleasure of seeing many plays this semester, including King Lear in HD by the National Theater of London, yet this performance of Twelfth Night has been my favorite show. It was absolutely hilarious, I was completely invested in the story, and I felt a connection with every actor on stage. Shakespeare can be very hard to watch for three hours straight, more so than most theatre because of how hard it is to understand Shakespearean English. Twelfth Night was my first time seeing a Shakespeare comedy, and I now realize that it is only Shakespeare tragedies that are difficult to watch. The constant comedic relief from Sir Andrew, Malvolio, and Sir Toby made it easy to stay focused the entire time.
The funniest character was Sir Andrew because of how goofy he was. However, In my opinion, the star of the show was Malvolio. Ben Rodenmeyer did a fantastic job giving Malvolio a tight-ass conceited persona that stuck with the character throughout the play. My favorite “monologue” of the play was when Malvolio was reading the letter where he is tricked into thinking that Olivia, his boss, loves him. He was whimsical and clueless in nature but describes himself as clever and dashing which was hilarious because as an audience we knew he was getting fooled. I found Malvolio to be a Jesus like character who experienced a crucifixion. He was a loyal servant to Olivia with no malintent but was punished for having the only genuine love in the entire play. All the other characters were falling in love with fake personas and incorrect genders, similar to worshipping false idols. As a result of his true love Malvolio was tied up in the dark (arms raised over his head like he was on the cross) and flogged. Everyone got a happy ending except for Malvolio who ran away embarrassed and hurt. Even Olivia was laughing at Malvolio at the end, joining her evil relative Sir Toby, who was deceptive throughout the play like the devil.
After seeing King Lear, I made sure to pay special attention to the fool, as I learned the fool is often the character of wisdom and clarity in Shakespeare’s plays. In this play the fool was wise, but his role was less of a philosopher and more of a cupid. It was the fool’s songs and interactions that got the others to fall in love. Gian Perez has an amazing voice and great stage presence while singing.
This rendition of twelfth night, mixed a classic Shakespeare play with the feel of an American theatrical. The extrinsic dance scenes reminded me of an American play and songs were sung in normal English, not in Shakespearean English. In fact, I am not used to hearing music at all in Shakespeare plays, but I almost felt like I was watching a musical. The fool had many songs and the extras were music performers. I was impressed that the music was played live with real instruments. Whenever a character was falling in love, they would symbolically show this by having the character lip sync an old American jazz song. Throughout the play, especially during scenes where characters were running around chasing each other, they would play Fats Waller, which I really appreciated as a giant Fats Waller fan.
My favorite line was the scene when Viola was reflecting on why Olivia loved her. “Poor lady, she were better love a dream. Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness, Wherein the pregnant enemy does much. How easy is it for the proper false In women’s waxen hearts to set their forms! Alas, our frailty is the cause, not we, For such as we are made of, such we be.” Olivia understands a women’s love and in this beautiful verse touches upon how delicate the love of a women is but also how naïve love is and how easily women are tricked.
My favorite scene was when Orsino and Viola were falling in love. They kept looking at each other, but never crossed eyes while the fool played beautiful music. The whole time it felt like a kiss should happen, and then the music stopped without a kiss being placed. A few awkward moments later a rushed kissed was placed and a feeling of surprise and relief filled my body. The acting in this scene was genuine and reminded me of how I feel like I am always missing the opportunity to kiss the one I love, and then when it finally happens it is after the perfect moment has already passed. Kissing became a very prominent part of this play. The end was a little overwhelming as it turned into a kiss orgy amongst all the characters. The most passionate kissing was amongst the male actors between Sebastian and Orsino.
Seeing Twelfth Night has inspired me to go and watch more Shakespeare comedies. Only Shakespeare’s tragedies are very famous and emphasized, but I find comedies much easier to watch and understand. Congrats to the school of SMTD on a fantastic job.