Chesapeake Shakespeare Company has opened its 20th season with Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Set in an Edwardian seaside resort and directed by CSC’s Founding Artistic Director Ian Gallanar, the comedy covers themes of longing, loss, healing, and nostalgia — not only in the production’s effective staging and design but also in CSC’s history with this play.
A romantic comedy about a love triangle, mistaken identities, cross-dressing, drunken revelries, and complicated pranks, it’s Billy Wilder’s Some Like It Hot onstage. In the aristocratic love triangle of Duke Orsino, Viola (as Cesario), and Countess Olivia, the three leads lack any chemistry, but who needs it when each offers such a compelling take on their character? Quincy Vicks is wonderfully foppish and melodramatic as the melancholic lover Orsino, swaggering across the stage with his cane, throwing himself onto plush pillows in a fit, and flouncing in a velvet smoking suit. As Olivia, Elana Michelle quickly devolves from emo girl to horny on main, and Lizzi Albert plays Viola’s confusion and grief well. Romantic hijinks ensue until the very undrowned twin brother Sebastian (the understudy William Kinna sword fighting with the best of them) sweeps Olivia off her feet, and Orsino learns that the lad he has been enjoying time with is a lady.
In the Upstairs, Downstairs farcical subplot, Gregory Burgess comically straddles the line between beguiling partier and the original “drunk uncle” Sir Toby. He’s joined by the wonderfully inept suitor Sir Andrew Aguecheek (a blustery Jose Guzman); the musical clown Feste (George Michael Harris), who taunts, teases, and sings for his supper; and the cigarette-chomping, trouser-wearing driver Fabian (Laura Malkus). The true mastermind of all this chaos, Maria, is played by the delightful Kathryne Daniels, who knowingly winks at the audience as she devises the revenge subplot against the puritanical Malvolio.
But it’s also a play about loss and sadness, from the shipwreck that separates Viola and Sebastian to Duke Orsino and Countess Olivia’s melancholic musings, and from Sebastian’s apparent betrayal of the loyal Antonio to the tormenting of Malvolio. Gallanar’s production makes space for grief and loss — Olvia and Viola are both young women mourning the loss of family members, after all — but makes sure to conclude with contentment and community.
Even among a cast obviously having much fun onstage, Ron Heneghan as Malvolio is superb as Shakespeare’s infamous killjoy. Heneghan sneers at the tomfoolery all around him; he looks down his nose at Viola, times Toby’s speeches with a pocket watch, and squints through his monocle while reading a forged love letter. Even though he swears revenge on everyone (including the audience) after a cruel prank, he happily joins the final chorus and closing jig because this is Illyria, where healing happens.
Early on Orsino declares, “If music be the food of love, play on.” Composer Dan O’Brien and Music Directors Grace Srinivasan and Emi Erickson make sure Shakespeare’s prose is enlivened by frequent musical interludes — and sung by Harris’ Feste with accompaniment from other cast members — ranging from a Talking Heads cover to a sea shanty in addition to O’Brien’s musical arrangements of Shakespearean songs from the 2002 production.
Designed by Timothy Jones, the set creates the romantic coastal town of Illyria with a few sweeping gestures: a mast and sails soaring upward upstage, a stone tower covered in vines, and ocean-blue baroque tiling on the stage. Illyria is almost magical: melancholics find joy, the grieving find solace, and even midsummer madness is cured here. It’s a place both in and out of time, though the costumes ground the play more specifically.
Kristina Lambdin’s Edwardian-era costume designs capture the in-betweenness of this short historical period (1901–1910), neither as stuffy as the Victorian era nor as freewheeling as the Roaring Twenties. Likewise, the colors and textures capture the sense of aristocratic leisure and focus on outdoor sports of the period, from striped bathing costumes to natty plaid suits to Olivia’s fashionable sailor collar.
The production — sweet and sentimental — is apropos. Twelfth Night was the first play of the fledgling Chesapeake Shakespeare Company 20 years ago at a small black box theater in Ellicott City, Maryland. As Gallanar — director of that original production, too — explained during a short speech at intermission, the whole audience would’ve filled only the front two center rows of the company’s current home in downtown Baltimore. Seated in the audience were some members of the original cast and crew as well as family members. Technical Director and Composer Dan O’Brien fittingly played Feste two decades ago, Executive Director Lesley Malin played Maria in the 2002 production, and while Costume Designer Kristina Lambdin did not design costumes for that first work, she was already on board by CSC’s second production.
Twelfth Night is ultimately a play about love, community, and belonging in all of its messy, chaotic, and love-filled ways. This highly enjoyable 20th-anniversary production fully embraces that sense of miraculous reunions and finding the right place to make a home.
Running Time: Two hours 20 minutes with one 15-minute intermission.
Twelfth Night plays through October 23, 2022, at Chesapeake Shakespeare Company – 7 South Calvert Street, Baltimore, MD. Ticket prices range from $24 to $69, with discounts available for active-duty military, seniors, and anyone age 25 or younger. Tickets can be purchased online, by calling 410-244-8570, or by visiting the Box Office in person.
The program for Twelfth Night is online here.
COVID Safety: All patrons, regardless of age, are required to be masked while in the theater. Complete Health and Safety FAQs are here.
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Ian Gallanar
Lizzi Albert – Viola
Tyrel Brown – Valentine/officer
Gregory Burgess – Sir Toby
Ian Charles – Sebastian
Kathryne Daniels – Maria
Jose Guzman – Sir Andrew
David Hanauer– Sea Captain
George Michael Harris – Feste
Oz Heiligman – Antonio
Ron Heneghan+ – Malvolio
Jade Jones – Lady in Waiting
Laura Malkus – Fabian
Elana Michelle – Olivia
Grant Scherini – Curio/officer
Quincy Vicks – Orsino
Ian Gallanar – Director
Lesley Malin – Producing Executive Director
Sarah Curnoles – Production Manager
Alexis E. Davis – Stage Manager
Bernard Johnson – Assistant Director
Dan O’Brien – Technical Director
Tim Jones – Set Designer
Kristina Lambdin – Costume Designer
Grace Srinivasan – Music Director
Jason Aufdem-Brinke – Lighting Designer
Kaydin Hamby – Sound Designer
Trey Wise – Props Designer
Emi Erickson – Vocal and Text Coach, Co-music Director
Lauren Engler – Choreographer
Eva Hill – Assistant Stage Manager
Hanna Brill – Wardrobe Supervisor
Jen Katz – Lighting Designer Assistant
Christopher Niebling – Fight and Intimacy Choreographer