The KTS production of William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, directed by Bryn Shaffer, is a wonderful blend of playful melodrama and intense longing. The plot is well known: the young Viola finds herself shipwrecked in Illyria, and joins the retinue of Duke Orsino under the guise of a young man named Cesario. Orsino thinks himself in love with the lady Olivia, who in turn falls in love with ‘Cesario’, and of course Viola is in love with Orsino himself. It’s a love triangle with one great twist – at least, before Viola’s brother Sebastian arrives in Illyria and the cases of mistaken identity become truly ridiculous.
Every single member of the cast and crew served to breathe some life into this well-known tale, but the show revolves primarily around Miranda Jones’s Viola, Mike Tucker’s Duke Orsino and Stephanie Hood’s Olivia. Each of the main characters is fully realized, dancing gracefully through the back-and-forth of unrequited love. Jones shows a nice depth as Viola: the audience sees just how much she struggles with her disguise as it works entirely too well on the enraptured Olivia. Tucker all but steals his scenes as the Duke – the spa scene is probably the most noteworthy – and he knows how to play off of Jones’s energy. Hood is also quite strong as the dominant Olivia, who knows what she wants and is not afraid to say it.
Of course, one cannot go far without mentioning the colourful secondary characters. Leading the charge is Tom Lute as the smarmy and magnificently self-absorbed steward Malvolio, who is led to believe through a letter planted by Meg Collins’ canny Maria that his lady Olivia is in love with him. Rounding out the deception are the perpetually drunk Sir Toby, his friends Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Fabian, and finally Feste the fool, played by Jon Bolduc, Alexandra Eaton, Claire Burnard and Kya Mosey respectively. Their ensemble scenes provide arguably the best comedic chemistry of the play. Mosey’s Feste is particularly amusing with her turn as a priest who appears to taunt Malvolio.
Brody Wilkinson-Martin and Rolando Argueta also make a solid showing as Sebastian and his companion Antonio. What the pair lack in enunciation is more than made up for with feeling and a wonderful sense of camaraderie throughout. All of the secondary personae are unique and memorable, and although there were a few line interruptions, these characters give the best laughs of the show.
The running gag of John Maize as Valentine – Orsino’s musical aficionado – hilariously butchering well-known songs on the recorder works well to cover up most of the awkward scene transitions. Various members of the cast dancing from point A to point B helps as well, but there still is a noticeable, if necessary, amount of ‘dead air’ between certain scenes.
Shaffer’s choice to set Twelfth Night in the Roaring Twenties works well to aestheticize the crucial cross-dressing (the moustaches!) elements of the play, but aside from some wonderful set and prop design, there is little reason to do so other than to get away from the typical Elizabethan setting. Ultimately though, the play does the setting justice, and the universally strong performances from both cast and crew make Twelfth Night a must-see for the KTS’s second season.
Twelfth Night runs Friday, Mar. 28 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, Mar. 29 at 1 and 8 p.m. in the Pit.