The Oregon Shakespeare Festival kicks off their season with a fresh spin on an old favorite.
Comedy, Tragedy, silliness, slapstick, and choreographed musical dance numbers are all found in this wonderful re-imagination of Shakespeare’s play, “Twelfth Night,” directed by Christopher Liam Moore, who cites “Twelfth Night” as his favorite Shakespeare play in the canon.
Christopher Liam Moore took many creative liberties when directing the play, including altering the time and place in which the play was originally set. Now no longer a kingdom of the early renaissance age, the land of Illyria is portrayed as the Illyria Studio, which is located and set in 1930’s Hollywood. This change in setting was ingenious being that Hollywood is still arguably a kingdom in its own right, with royal, rich, and powerful figures ruling the land.
The fear in making such a drastic change to the setting is, of course, that the play could be lost in translation rather than renewed. Fortunately, the plot and characters were, in fact, made stronger thanks to the Hollywood environment. Olivia being portrayed as a famous actress justifies her bloated perception of herself; and Sir Toby as a rich, rowdy, drunkard, could be seen as typical in 1930’s Hollywood. Changing the scenery from kingdom to Southern California rendered the play to be much more tangible, relate-able, and thus, entertaining to the average viewer.
The setting and the garb weren’t the only change in the play, however. Entire scenes were expounded upon in hilarious and purposeful ways. One of the highlights of the entire play, the duel between Viola and Sir Andrew, was interrupted before it ever took place in Shakespeare’s original work, but here the dual ensues with some of the most wonderful slapstick comedy one could ever see on stage.
Another highlight of the play, which, again, came as a result of the creative team expanding upon the original work, has three of our characters hiding behind a movable mirror, steering across the room in order to avoid the Butler who is wandering around the hall reading their forged letter. It was funny, memorable, and not in the original script.
But, even with these liberties, the play remained extremely faithful to the original work. The plot was unchanged, and the dialogue was almost completely identical to Shakespeare’s version. It was even unaltered from the original Shakespearean speech, which, incidentally caused a minor issue in the immersion of the play: it was slightly jarring to see characters clearly set in the 20th century speaking in such an old style of English. Fortunately the humor, emotion, and the plot were never lost.
Each performer was exquisite, with no weak links. Some standout performances were Sarah Bruner, who managed to portray both twin brother and sister, Viola and Sebastian, distinct and believable- Ted Deasy, who played the stern butler, was both dry and unpredictable, and delivered some of the most memorable and comedic lines in the entire play. And Rodney Gardiner, who played Feste, the entertainer of Olivia’s household, was energetic, spry, and sang and danced magnificently.
Christopher Liam Moore’s interpretation of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” is a must see. It’s funny, engaging, brilliant, and the ending musical number was extremely fun and awe inspiring.