Twelfth Night

April 4, 2019

in Plays

Play (1602)
by William Shakespeare

Directed by Paula Plum
Lyric Stage Company of Boston and
Actors Shakespeare Project
Copley Square area, Boston
March 29 – April 28, 2019

With Hayley Spivy (Viola), Samantha Richert (Olivia), Alejandro Simoes (Orsino, Sir Andrew Aguecheek), Richard Snee (Malvolio), Bobbie Steinbach (Sir Toby Belch), Michael Forden Walker (Antonio, Fabian, Valentine), Rachel Belleman (Feste), Jennie Israel (Maria), Dominic Carter (Sebastian)

Hayley Spivy as Viola/Cesario, Alejandro Simoes as Orsino in 'Twelfth Night'

Hayley Spivy as Viola/Cesario
Alejandro Simoes as Orsino
in “Twelfth Night”
Photo: Mark S. Howard
Courtesy of Lyric Stage Company of Boston and
Actors Shakespeare Project

A boisterous take on the great early comedy involving twins, cross-dressing and romantic misalignments.

A shipwreck leaves Viola (Hayley Spivy) in Illyria and, taking up dressing as a young man named Cesario, she becomes assistant to Orsino (Alejandro Simoes). Orsino, meanwhile, has been courting Olivia (Samantha Richert), to no avail. Serving as representative of Orsino, Viola, in her male garb, becomes the object of Olivia’s affection. Meanwhile, Viola has fallen for Orsino, and though he has unexplained affection for her, he cannot admit it since he thinks she is a man. While all of this is going on, a hanger-on gang at Olivia’s house put her uptight servant Malvolio (Richard Snee) through lots of tormenting paces.

Twelfth Night is a great play with touching love stories providing the substance, while the gang of four that teases Malvolio dresses up the romantic core with slapstick comedy.

In this production, everything, more or less, is cast in the context of frivolity, which makes the built-in hilarity involving Malvolio seem more an element of the entire action rather than the comedic offset.

Samantha Richert’s Olivia is a broad, almost Mae West, type, vividly sullen at the outset then exuberantly passionate later on. Though Olivia always commands attention, her role is frequently conceived as somewhat more restrained and dignified, which allows her actual passion for Cesario to shine. The ploy by Sir Toby Belch (Bobbie Steinbach), Maria (Jennie Israel) Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Alejandro Simoes) and Fabian (Michael Forden Walker) on Malvolio to act like a foolish lover with Olivia also surfaces more vividly when Olivia is somewhat less extreme in her depiction.

Hayley Spivey’s Viola is sweetly modest and conveys a true innocent boyishness.

Richard Snee’s Malvolio is well done, but, in the exuberant way this production is conceived, his nuttiness is just part of the entire game rather than being set off in relief.

As Feste, Rachel Belleman does a wonderful comedic job and also sings beautifully.

As Orsino and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Alejandro Simoes does fine job on both ends of the spectrum of suitors to Olivia and, of course, as unwitting lover of Cesario/Viola.

The scene at the end in which Viola and Sebastian (Dominic Carter) show up together is played hilariously by the cast.

Twelfth Night is indeed conceived as a celebratory piece for a holiday, which seems to inform much of the interpretation here. Approaches with somewhat less general frivolity and hilarity mute that more wild comedic exuberance in the interest of more subtlety in the love stories.

– BADMan

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