Twelfth Night or What You Will at Shakespeare and Company
Music and words, words and music. In director Allyn Burrows’ Twelfth Night at Shakespeare and Company, words and music received full support from the text and from the melodies. One reason for this play’s greatness is a simple one—many characters, many situations. The first encouragement in this superb production is its near constant use of music. New music, old music, all used with joy. Also that occasional joy which comes from sadness. Sound designer and composer Arshan Gailus provided a wonderful soundscape that blended popular songs and instrumentals from a 1959 dance hall (Mr. Burrows’ chosen time and place). The recorded melodies blended and melded imaginatively into live music deftly handled by Gregory Boover, who serenaded players and audience in his role as Feste. The costume design by Govane Lohauer provided some lovely apparel of ’50s style that reflected in the lighting beautifully. I was most impressed and taught by Miles Anderson in the role of Malvolio, particularly in his long solo scene, but also throughout his perseverance and despair, when he was captured and taunted in a hole in the ground. It was very well done, that he said nothing at the end.
It was startling and splendid to hear the old texts in the new music. Malvolio, you see, is one character without any music, and music is the play. Steven Barkhimer as Sir Toby wallowed appropriately. Ella Loudon’s Viola was wonderfully controlled, quiet being used, not avoided. Losing her disguise as Cesario, her revealing of her true self brought tears to my eyes. Cloteal Horne as Olivia gave us energy to spare. Last but by no means least, the wonderful Nigel Gore as Sir Andrew Aguecheek gave us great delight in his antics and drunkenness. Martin Jason Asprey, in dual roles of the Sea Captain, and as Antonio, brought earnest sympathy to his characters’ interactions.
All in all, this great play has kindness. It is, in fact, a quest for kindness, and these wonderful actors sought always to find it.