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Twelth Night by William Shakespeare
Directed by Rebecca Bayla Taichman
Shakespeare Theatre Company
Sidney Harman Hall
610 F Street N.W., Washington, DC — December, 2008

A Review by Grace Cavalieri

Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night brims with the author’s best known tricks: mistaken identity, comic subplots, bawdiness, false letters written in a forger’s hand, thwarted love, love rejected, love found, and love victorious for all. If you’re not up to this much fun or a breathtakingly spectacular production, then by all means go somewhere else—say climb an insurmountable rainbow or two—because nothing less will equal the delight in store at the Harman Center for your holiday treat.

Here is the plot: Viola is shipwrecked on the shore of Illyria. Believing her brother has drowned, she masquerades as a man entering the service of Duke Orsino, using the name Cesario. Now, the Duke is in love with Lady Olivia, and uses Cesario as his messenger of love, and of course Olivia falls for this Cesario . ‘I am not what I am,’ she protests; and of course, she (Viola/Cesario) is in love with Duke Orsino. When Sebastian appears, dressed exactly like his sister, appearing to be Cesario, it is High Holiday on stage.

How can a Director take this profoundly predictable Shakespeare plot and turn it into a new imagined reality? It starts with the actors who have exceptional abilities in movement and dexterity. We could stay up late tonight describing the precisions that make comedy – but outstanding in voice, is Lady Olivia (Veanne Cox); and in action, Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Tom Story.) Director Rebecca Bayla Taichman, must have had an intense vision, accumulating her subplots, for the art and practice of humor is momentum, and that will not be seen better than it is here.

This play is actually an adventure in Seeing. The parabolic stage uses lighting to reflect from a shining floor. The staging is uncompromisingly brilliant through a solidarity of gifts by Set Designer Riccardo Hernandez, Costume Designer Miranda Hoffman, and Lighting Designer Christopher Akerlind. The period music, under the direction of Martin Desjardins, Composer and Sound Designer, is performed live with instruments, and vocalist Stacey Cabaj.

“Virtue is beauty” says one character, adding, “but sometimes beauty is beauty.” And wait until you see the rose petals fall over the stage, flowering this exuberant production. Playing through January 4. Box office: 202-547-1122.

Grace Cavalieri is a poet and a playwright. She produces "The Poet and the Poem from the Library of Congress" for public radio. www.gracecavalieri.com.
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