Twelfth Night Marks Decade for ND Shakespeare PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 21 August 2009 13:45

SOUTH BEND —OK. This is about a Shakespeare production at Notre Dame. WAIT! Before you check out YouTube, hear me out. If your closest acquaintance with The Bard has been modernized  "based on" films like "10 Things I Hate About You" ("The Taming of the Shrew") and "Forbidden Planet" ("The Tempest") or Kenneth Branaugh's  more recent interpretations, it's time to shake the idea that Shakespeare is only for the nerds and those intellectually inclined. And the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival's current offering, "Twelfth Night" or "What You Will" is just the ticket — and I mean that literally.

Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival production of 12th NightTo mark it's 10th season (has it really been a decade?), the selection powers-that-be have chosen one of the most popular of Shakespeare's comedies and one that incorporates one of his favorite themes — identical siblings parted by a natural disaster who each believe the other dead and whose reunion provides the grand finale and the unraveling of several frantically entwined storylines. To say that this production is better than its predecessors would not be true. To say that it continues  — and extends — the high level of production and performance excellence set by all nine past shows is enough to mark it "not to be missed." Internationally known director David H. Bell (making his NDSF debut), leads a cast of outstanding professional and non-professional actors and a creative team that never ceases to amaze. His "Twelfth Night" extracts every ounce of romance (real and imagined) and every pound of comedy (verbal and physical)  from the multi-level text and the talented performers. Although Shakespeare set this last of his romantic comedies in Illyria, on the Mediterranean coast, director Bell has opted to place it in Russia, noting the "resonances with Chekov comedy" in which the "illusion of romance is important." It works well in that locale, with a major assist from the revolving setting by Marcus Stephens which turns Olivia's dachau to an all-purpose forest, and the original music by music director Daniel Green. His melodies support several of the play's best known speeches ("O Mistress mine...") as well as serving to set the scene. Music and musicians are well integrated, moving the action along both smoothly and lyrically. From the opening thunder crack to the bittersweet finale, even if you fail to assimilate all the dialogue, there is no doubt as to the meaning. Interesting to note that one of the major roles — the girl Viola who must masquerade as Cesario in order to survive alone — is played by a Northwestern University senior, dimpled Maggie Donnelly, who holds her own in professional company. Not an easy task when caught between Chicago actress Lesley Bevan as Countess Olivia, who falls in love with Cesario, and  New York's Christopher Kelly as Duke Orsino, who is pursuing Olivia but  becomes the object of Viola's affection, an emotion he returns but denies until her brother Sebastian (ND grad Matthew Goodrich) turns up alive and well and ready  to help the siblings pair properly with respective others. Matt Edmonds, another Northwestern senior is a certified scene stealer as Feste, a jester, who views the entanglements through a shrewdly jaunced eye, being both a part of and separate from them, which gives his character a frequently mournful edge. He also sings and  plays accordion  (reportedly learned for this production.) The comedic highlights of  "Twelth Night" are  generated by Sir Toby Belch, played with delightfully infectious deviltry by Broadway veteran Frank Kopyc; his accomplices in "crime," Maria (Olivia's maid), award-winning Chicago actress Cindy Gold;  Fabian (another servant), South Bend actor Greg Melton; and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (foppish friend of Sir Toby), another Chicago veteran Christopher McLinden. With Feste they plot against Olivia's  pompous steward Malvolio, preying on his vanity and conceit to create one of the evening's most hilarious visuals. Malvolio is created beautifully by Donald Carrier, a veteran of the Stratford Shakespeare Festival, making him by turns completely ridiculous and completely sympathetic. Completing the cast are Elkhartan Paul Hanft  doubling as a sea captain and, later, as a priest;  South Bend Civic's Mary Ann Moran, and a number of college students. Among the definitely unexpected delights of this "Twelth Night" are "ducks" and "divers" (assisted by Robert Steel's sound design) and some awesomely extensive swordplay, staged by fight director Kevin Asselin. "Twelfth Night" plays through Aug. 30 in the Decio Theatre in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. For show times and tickets, call 631-2800 or visit

Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 April 2011 19:10

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