Jennifer D. Wade Journal

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Happy Endings

That's what you get in Shakespeare's "TWELFTH NIGHT."  Of course, it's a comedy, so would you expect anything less?

I wasn't sure what to expect last night when I trekked down to Luzerne County Community College for a performance of "Twelfth Night" by the NATIONAL PLAYERS touring company, especially when I saw the very small stage area.  But, the play was better than expected. (And, if you click on the link, you'll find that two of the actors graduated from colleges around here!)

To summarize, "Twelfth Night" is, overall, a play about people pretending to be who they're not.  One of the main characters is Viola, who begins the play shipwrecked on the shores of Illyria, where Duke Orsino is the ruler.  Viola passes herself off as a man named Cesario, and becomes a servant to Orsino.  As Viola, she's in love with the Duke.  But, as Cesario, her job is to woo the wealthy Olivia, who the Duke claims to love.  Olivia, however, is quite taken with Cesario.  So much so, that when Viola's shipwrecked twin brother Sebastian finally shows up, Olivia immediately marries him, thinking that he's Cesario.  (The wedding takes place off-stage, so I guess we'll never know if the ceremony included the line "Do you Sebastian...")  Of course, in the end, true identities are revealed, the Duke claims Viola, and everyone lives happily ever after.

(Sorry.  Have to go.  Will finish later)

(And, we're back at 6:25 pm.)

While the Duke and company try to sort out who's who, Sir Toby Belch, a relative of Olivia, is up to his old tricks.  He hangs with Sir Andrew, a would-be suitor for Olivia.  Maria, Olivia's housekeeper, and Feste, the fool (who's by no means foolish), are also involved in the merry-making.  They pull off a scheme to humiliate Malvolio, Olivia's uppity steward, by making him believe that Olivia is in love with him. 

In last night's play, the majority of the performances were strong.  In particular, the actors who played Toby, Andrew, and Feste stood out, as did the actor who played Malvolio.  They took full advantage of their character's comedic opportunities.

The production itself had a very whimsical feel to it.  It wasn't set in any particular time period.  Sir Andrew looked like a caricature from "Dangerous Liasons" while Feste had a Harry Potter feel to him.  The props were also quite fanciful.  For example, a putter and a fireplace shovel were used to represent swords.  Notes were written on what appeard to be scraps of wrapping paper.  Certainly, nothing here was what it seemed.  And, as mentioned above, I thought the small set worked well.  Having the perpetrators of the jokes so close to the victims enhanced, I think, the play's comedic elements.

I always get a lot more out of Shakespeare when I see it performed, even if I've read the play beforehand.  I did read "Twelfth Night" some 20 years ago, but didn't recall much about it (which is why I looked it up on WIKIPEDIA before seeing the play last night).  The production by the National Players served not only to refresh my memory, but also to deepen my understanding. 

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