Leaving Copernicus aside, the Fool’s wry remark is an apt description of this bizarre and entertaining—if self-indulgent—production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night directed by Yuri Urnov.
Patreshettarlini Adams, the Wilma Theater’s resident stage manager, was celebrated on Friday’s opening night of Twelfth Night. It was the 100th opening night she’d managed, and what a managing job this wild and wooly production must have been, what with skateboards and paddle boards on wheels, bicycles, movable piers and boardwalks, and a kiddie pool filled with beach balls. It begins with a balding mermaid (Jered McLenigan) flopping around, and that’s just the start of the gender confusion at the heart of this comedy.
When twins—Viola and Sebastian—are shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria ( set by Misha Kachman), each thinks the other is drowned. In a brilliant prelude scene, we watch the excellent MK Tuomanen play both roles with the help of an amusing wig and costume (Ivana Stack). Viola disguises herself as a man, Cesario, to get a job as page to Duke Orsino (Ross Besschler) who is in love with Countess Olivia (Brett Ashley Robinson) and keeps sending his new servant to woo her with jewels. Olivia falls for Cesario and Cesario falls for Orsino. Swept up in this horny tangle is poor puritanical Malvolio ( Keith J. Conallen) pranked by Sir Toby (Lindsay Smiling) and his drunken crew (Suli Holum and Campbell O’Hare).
Overseeing all these shenanigans is the Fool, Feste (Krista Apple), whose songs create a party both off-stage and on.
Lantern Theater’s production of this same play gives audiences a rare chance to see what a huge difference a director makes and who these characters are when embodied by a different cast. An embarrassment of riches.
[Wilma Theater, 265 S Broad Street] June 9-25, 2023; wilmatheater.org