"Twelfth Night" Unfolds at Shakespeare & Company July 24—September 5

Posted July 17, 2009

“Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous, there shall be no more cakes and ale?”

{Lenox, Mass}— A woman dresses up as a man. Then she falls in love with a man, who doesn’t know she’s really a woman. Then, the woman this man is in love with falls in love with her. Got that straight? For the first time in Founders’ Theatre, Shakespeare & Company presents the unforgettable romp Twelfth Night, an absolute feast of mistaken identity, misplaced affection and defiant revelry. Jonathan Croy directs. Twelfth Night plays at Founders’ Theatre July 24 to September 5.

Founders’ Theatre is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. Performances in the evenings run at 7:30 p.m. and in the afternoons at 2:00 p.m. Tickets range from $15 to $60. To inquire about our 40% Berkshire Resident Discount, $15 front row “Groundlings” tickets, Rush Tix, or to receive a brochure, please visit www.shakespeare.org or call the Box Office at (413) 637-3353. For group visits, including options for catered events, artist talkbacks and more, contact Group Sales Manager Victoria Vining at (413) 637-1199 ext. 132.

A veritable feast of comedic shenanigans, Twelfth Night contains social satire, situation comedy, high wit, low buffoonery, song, dance, and, of course, a set of twins who’ve been separated at birth and will inevitably be mistaken for each other before finally reuniting happily. Plus, one very important pair of yellow gartered stockings. Twelfth Night’s influence on comedy throughout the ages, from the British comedy of manners to today’s sit-com television, can hardly be calculated.

“I honestly believe Twelfth Night is the greatest comedy ever written. Almost any form of comedy I can think of is represented in the rich tapestry of this play,” Croy says.

Twelfth Night is one of the most memorable entries in the category of Shakespearean comedies known as “pants plays,” in which a woman, for some reason—usually her own protection—dresses up like and passes as a man, with hilarious results. The play is named for the eve of the Feast of Epiphany, a British holiday with roots in the ancient Roman feast of Saturnalia, inspired by the same irreverent spirit informing Halloween, Carnivale and Mardi Gras. It is a night when the world is playfully turned upside down, when the social order is upended and the Lord of Misrule is given his reign.

True to the form of Shakespeare’s great comedies, Twelfth Night features an intricate plot which somehow whizzes by onstage, with the audience left to ride a rollercoaster of thwarted passion and hilarious misunderstandings, before sharing in the joyous climax where all is, inevitably, set right again.

“Comedy is about life. Comedy is about what we reveal about ourselves,” Croy continues, clearly delighted as he contemplates the play. “It’s about eternal optimism. Comedy, in my curious worldview, is what gets me out of bed in the morning. Because it’s a worldview in which no problem is insurmountable, where everything is going to be okay. We know we’ll somehow find our way to the end of the problems in this play without the body count we get in Shakespeare’s tragedies. So I find Twelfth Night really life-affirming. Like most comedies it’s a love story. Or, in this case, several love stories all in one.”

A lynchpin of Shakespeare & Company’s Education Program, Croy has directed over one hundred youth productions—from the New England Tour of Shakespeare (including this year’s Romeo and Juliet, which went on to open the 2009-2010 season in the Elayne P. Bernstein Theatre), to twenty years’ worth of Fall Festival of Shakespeare performances. His acting work for the Company has been justly celebrated as well, such as in recent hits The Ladies Man (2008), Rough Crossing (2007), and Merry Wives of Windsor (2006).

The cast features a host of richly talented actors, most of whom split their duties this season between Twelfth Night and either Hamlet or Othello: Robert Biggs (Feste in Twelfth Night/ Lodovico and Soldier in Othello), Ken Cheeseman (Malvolio in Twelfth Night/ Brabantio and Soldier in Othello), Johnny Lee Davenport (Antonio and Valentine in Twelfth Night/ Ghost, Gravedigger and Player King in Hamlet), Nigel Gore (Sir Toby Belch in Twelfth Night/Claudius in Hamlet), Merritt Janson (Viola in Twelfth Night/Desdemona in Othello), David Joseph (Sea Captain and 1st Officer), Alexandra Lincoln (Gentlewoman and 2nd Officer), Bob Lohbauer (Curio and Priest), Corinna May (Maria), Elizabeth Raetz (Olivia in Twelfth Night/Ophelia in Hamlet), Duane Allen Robinson (Duke Orsino in Twelfth Night/Michael Cassio in Othello), Alexander Sovronsky (Fabian in Twelfth Night/ Rosencrantz and Ambassador in Hamlet), Jake Waid (Sebastian in Twelfth Night/Horatio in Hamlet), and Ryan Winkles (Andrew Aguecheek in Twelfth Night/Roderigo in Othello).

Written in 1604, Twelfth Night unfolds in Illyria, a land of obsession, lusty clowns, and mistaken identity. The play opens with the love-sick Duke Orsino pining away for his object of desire, the seemingly unattainable Countess Olivia. Meanwhile, a shipwreck that separates a twin brother and sister (Viola and Sebastian) delivers young Viola onto Illyria’s shores. Thinking her brother dead, Viola disguises herself as a man (Cesario) and promptly becomes Orsino’s servant. The only part she had not planned on was falling passionately in love with him.

Orsino sends “Cesario” to woo Olivia on his behalf, but she succeeds too well—Countess Olivia falls in love with her instead. Viola’s brother Sebastian, who is actually very much alive, soon arrives on the scene. Mayhem ensues when Countess Olivia mistakes Sebastian for his sister, while “Cesario” is mistaken for her brother by the hilarious bawd Sir Toby Belch and his mischievous gang. In a gust-busting subplot, Olivia’s overbearing and puritanical chief servant, Malvolio—who is also in love with her—is tricked into thinking she returns his feelings, and dons a hilariously ill-considered costume to woo her.

Meanwhile, the unforgettable clown Feste misses no opportunity to take satirical shots at both the self-righteous noblemen and the rough-and-tumble commoners. A moment of startling revelation erupts when all the lovers find themselves gathered together at once, prompting tearful reunion, joyous celebration and, of course, a string of happy marriages.

JONATHAN CROY* twenty-fourth season (Director of Romeo and Juliet and Twelfth Night, or What You Will, Ensemble in Hound of the Baskervilles). A Company member since 1982, Jon has played more than 60 roles in over 50 plays, including Rough Crossing (Turai), The Merry Wives of Windsor (Dr. Caius), The Taming of the Shrew (Baptista), Much Ado About Nothing (Don Pedro), Henry V (Pistol/French King), The Tempest (Caliban), Complete Works abridged (Jon), Twelfth Night (Orsino), Richard III (Buckingham), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Bottom), Comedy of Errors (Dromio of Syracuse), Custom of the Country (Elmer Moffat), Twelfth Night (Aguecheek), Macbeth (title role), and Much Ado About Nothing (Benedick). Jon has directed many New England Tours, Shakespeare in the Courts programs, Summer Institute productions, Young Company performances, and more than 40 others in Residencies. Jon has directed professionally in Chicago, Milwaukee and North Carolina...and has acted at the NY Shakespeare Festival, Missouri Rep, NC Shakespeare Festival, Virginia Shakespeare Festival, Indiana Rep, St. Louis Rep, Milwaukee Rep, Playmakers Rep, the Studio Arena, The Woodstock Playhouse, The Actors’ Theatre, the Actors’ Warehouse, and the Actors’ Lab...others, too, with strange names—Sparkplug Stage Co., The New Theatre Co., Monkeywrench Productions, Twentieth Century, ComedyCo., The Lighter Side Theater Co.

At A Glance
Production: Twelfth Night
Theatre: Founders’ Theatre
Written by: William Shakespeare
Director & set designer: Jonathan Croy

Cast: Robert Biggs, Ken Cheeseman, Johnny Lee Davenport, Nigel Gore, Merritt Janson, David Joseph, Alexandra Lincoln, Bob Lohbauer, Corinna May, Elizabeth Raetz, Duane Allen Robinson, Alexander Sovronsky, Jake Waid, Ryan Winkles

Lighting designer: Les Dickert
Costume Designer: Govane Lohbauer
composer: Robert Biggs
Resident Music Director Bill Barclay
voice & text coach: Malcolm Ingram
fight director: Ryan Winkles
Assistant to the Director: Kelly Galvin

Dates: Tuesday through Sunday, in repertory
Previews: July 24, July 25, July 26, July 30
Opens: July 31
Closes: September 5

tickets: $15-$60
Phone: (413) 637-3353
Email: boxoffice@shakespeare.org
Web: www.shakespeare.org

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