“Shall we set about some revels?” Yes!
The battle begins: Lantern Theater Company opened its excellent and enjoyable production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night; soon to enter the fray will be Wilma’s production of the comedy, giving Philly audiences a huge 24 Nights for our pleasure.
Director Charles McMahon manages that tricky middle road, combining both imaginative staging with necessary respect for the text. The Lantern cast rises to the challenge: funny, moving and full of charm.
The plot is perfect for today’s gender-challenging culture: twins are shipwrecked and, unbeknownst to each other, are both washed up on the shores of Illyria. Various people fall in love with them, confounding both the lovers and the lovees, until finally everything is sorted out; the play’s subtitle is, after all, “or, What You Will.”
Central to the story is the Duke Orsino (Damon Bonetti, in a particularly elegant performance) who is mad about Olivia (Melissa Rakiro) and keeps sending her jewelry via his new servant who is Viola (Joanna Liao) disguised as a man. The disguise works and Olivia falls in love the messenger while the Duke also falls himself puzzlingly in love with the same messenger.
There is (natch) a subplot, wherein some rowdy drunks (Brian Anthony Wilson and J Hernandez) along with Olivia’s maid (Lee Minora) who are facing eviction from Olivia’s house, plot to trick her puritanical steward, Malvolio (David Ingram is both comical and pitiable) making him think she loves him. The cruelty of their prank is revealed because this production’s Malvolio isn’t very “mal.”
And in yet another while:
There is a sub-sub plot: the kindly sea captain (Brian McCann) is—well, maybe—in love with Sebastian (Tyler S. Elliott). It is “a happy wreck.”
The whole show is drunk on love, and since music is “the food of love,” the Fool (Charlie DelMarcelle) provides tender love songs (Christopher Colucci provided original music).
Adding to the pleasure are some nifty lighting effects (Tydell Williams) and, crucial to a show based on disguises, fine costumes (Marla Jurglanis).
[Lantern Theater Company, Ludlow St.] May 18–June 18, 2023; lanterntheater.org