TWELFTH NIGHT (Lantern): Some are born great

Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night (1599-1600), one of his few fantasy plays, immediately before he penned his incomparable Hamlet (1600-1601).  As Artistic Director Charles McMahon describes it, “The brilliant and ageless Twelfth Night is a comedy that lives at the edge of heartbreak right up until its magnificent conclusion.” 

The play opens as a tiny toy sailing vessel is swooping along in someone’s hand, only to end in shipwreck. Such a wreck also begins The Tempest, Shakespeare’s final play. 

Wonderful actors have handled this play. Two outstanding examples of Twelfth Nights I’ve seen are the all-male production at the London’s New Globe, when Mark Rylance was Artistic Director. And Sarah Sanford’s love-struck Viola/Cesario with Scott Greer’s Feste in a Pig Iron staging a few years ago. 

Hints of magic linger throughout the complicated plot twists, knaves, revelries, boisterous declamations and mistaken identities. Twins help to achieve Twelfth Night’s magic. When Antonio sees the resemblance between Viola and Sebastian, he cries, “How have you made division of yourself?” According to history scholars, in the 1600’s twinning was seen as something rather supernatural. Doubleness had magic. Shakespeare must have thought about this, as he had twins. (My connection to Shakespeare: I also have twins.)

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” Maria, a servant of the noble Olivia, wrote this line in a forged  note in Olivia’s name to Malvolio, a comically self-righteous servant. The note suggested that he wear crossed garters and yellow stockings. His outrageous outfit results in much mirth at his expense. And party animal Sir Toby Belch and his rowdy pals carouse with humor and wit. 

If music be the food of love, play on. Gentle, pastoral, semi-Elizabethan guitar music played by the versatile Charlie DelMarcelle stands in fine contrast to the staged mayhem it is wrapped around. Good to see that Christopher Colucci, sound designer par excellence, provided the original music. The Lantern is singularly successful in directing and performing Shakespeare comedies. Rather than treat the Bard’s work with awed, embalmed reverence like the stuffed artifact of a bygone age, Lantern brings it alive to delight modern audiences, just as William Shakespeare once entertained the well-off and the groundlings at the Globe. Any production is a group effort and Lantern has assembled fine talent.  J. Alex Cordaro, Fight Director extraordinaire, turns swordplay into ballet. Scenic Designer James F. Pyne, Jr., Lighting Designer Tydell Willams, and Rebecca Smith on Stage Management do an excellent job, while Marla Jurglanis’s Costume Design is nothing short of inspired. Lantern Artistic Director Charles McMahon directs the fine ensemble cast.

Orsino……………….Damon Bonetti
Feste……………….Charlie DelMarcelle
Sebastian……………….Tyler S. Elliott
Sir Andrew……………….J Hernandez
Malvolio……………….David Ingram
Viola……………….Joanna Liao
Antonio……………….Brian McCann
Maria……………….Lee Minora
Olivia……………….Melissa Rakiro
Sir Toby Belch……………….Brian Anthony Wilson

[Lantern Theater Company, Ludlow St.] May 18–June 18, 2023;

Note:  Twelfth Night is a popular show this season:  Allen’s Lane Art Center is currently playing Twelfth Night up until June 4. And another Twelfth Night is coming up at the Wilma, June 6 – 25. 


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