‘Twelfth Night’ livens the heart and tickles the ribs at Port Tobacco Players

Director Rachel Wallace sets Shakespeare's classic romantic comedy in the 1940s and the result is incredibly entertaining.

There is pain associated with love, as Shakespeare shows in Twelfth Night. In Port Tobacco Players’ production, Director Rachel Wallace sets the action in the 1940s and utilizes excellent players to bring out the show’s farcical humor.

This romantic comedy combines mistaken-identity and practical-joke plots. As a result of an accident (in this case, apparently, a World War II plane crash) that separates her from her twin brother, Sebastian, Viola poses as a man, goes by the name of Cesario, and works as a servant for Duke Orsino in Illyria (modern-day Albania).

Anthony Dieguez as Orsino, Nathan Daetwyler as Sebastian, Kaitelyn Bauer Deguez as Viola, Emma Ansell as Valentine, Jeremy Hunter as Antonio in ‘Twelfth Night.’ Photo by Rachel Wallace.

In his place, Orsino sends Viola/Cesario to woo Countess Olivia, but Olivia ends up falling for Cesario/Viola. There is dramatic irony in the main plot: Orsino is in love with Olivia, who is in love with the “man” Orsino sent to woo Olivia on his behalf. However, this man is actually a woman named Viola, who loves Orsino.

High jinx ensues when Sir Toby Belch, Olivia’s uncle, and his friends devise a ruse to trick Malvolio, Olivia’s dictatorial steward. When Sebastian shows up, the confusion, chaos, and humor increase exponentially.

Brenna Prestidge plays the well-known and challenging role of Malvolio. Traditionally a male role, Malvolio in this production has a lesbian crush on her boss, Olivia. Prestidge has fun strutting around the stage, autocratically bringing order to Olivia’s household.

Cassandra Morris as Maria, Brenna Prestidge as Malvolio, and Dana Gattuso as Olivia in ‘Twelfth Night.’ Photo by Rachel Wallace.

The audience has no trouble loving to hate Malvolio’s killjoy tendencies and nasty rebukes of amiable dunces Sir Toby Belch, Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Feste, the jester. Included in Prestidge’s performance is an emotional monologue that peeks behind Malvolio’s icy exterior. Costume Designer Lisa Magee put Prestidge in a yellow golf outfit, complete with a sweater and cap.

Paul Morris makes Sir Andrew Aguecheek a cartoon come to life, with his over-the-top expressions and body language. Morris makes the audience laugh heartily in his interactions with just about everyone in the cast. His physical comedy is par excellence. Morris and many of the other cast members wear costumes more reminiscent of the ’50s than the ’40s.

Despite his drunken and blowhard ways, Sir Toby Belch is an amiable character, and Gary Penn does a first-rate job portraying him. There is a running drinking gag the director uses that brings out the humor of the character.

Feste is a clown and purveyor of bits of wisdom. Eleanore Tapscott makes Feste’s scenes some of the finest in the show because of her chemistry with the other players.

Viola is played with earnestness by Kaitelyn Bauer-Dieguez, who shines in scenes with Anthony Dieguez’s Orsino. In turn, she plays subservience to Orsino and confusion as the plot thickens.

Dana Gattuso is heartfelt and a bit lovelorn in her scenes as Olivia. However, the large, pith-shaped hat she wears at times shadows her face for some of her performance.

Becky Norris Kuhn, Tara Waters, and Coleen Bremner as the Sisters in ‘Twelfth Night.’ Photo by Rachel Wallace.

Wallace adds a musical flair to the production by utilizing the Sisters — Becky Norris Kuhn, Coleen Bremner, and Tara Waters — who serenade the audience throughout with such ’40s tunes as “Straighten Up and Fly Right.” The Sisters wear dazzling dresses and move to the choreography of Kaitlin Branham. ​Music Directors Brian Kuhn and Becky Norris Kuhn help make those musical numbers sizzle.

Nathan Daetwyler and Jeremy Hunter bring a brotherly vibe to their performances as Sebastian and his friend Antonio. Cassandra Morris as Maria is best when plotting against Malvolio.

I liked the supporting roles of Valentine/Others (Emma Ansell) and Priest/Others (Michael Beyrle Jr.)

Chris Magee’s set design transports you to an Italian villa, complete with white stucco, a portico, a water fountain, stairs, and a balcony. Wallace uses the set as both Duke Orsino and Countess Olivia’s residences.

Just like in real life, love can be found and lost in a Shakespeare play. With love and identity as Twelfth Night’s main themes, this incredibly entertaining production leaves you with food for thought and comedic escapism.

Running Time: Approximately 2 hours 20 minutes, including a 20-minute intermission.

Twelfth Night plays through February 5, 2023, at Port Tobacco Players, 508 Charles Street, La Plata, MD. Tickets ($16.50–$19.50) can be purchased online.

COVID Safety: For all performances, masks are suggested but not required.

Twelfth Night

Orsino: Anthony Dieguez
Viola: Kaitelyn Bauer-Dieguez
Sebastian: Nathan Daetwyler
Antonio: Jeremy Hunter
Olivia: Dana Gattuso
Sir Toby Belch: Gary Penn
Sir Andrew Aguecheek: Paul Morris
Maria: Cassandra Morris
Malvolio: Brenna Prestidge
Feste: Eleanore Tapscott
Valentine / Others: Emma Ansell
Priest / Others: Michael Beyrle Jr.
The Sisters: Becky Norris Kuhn, Coleen Bremner, Tara Waters

Director: Rachel Wallace
​Music Directors:  Brian Kuhn & Becky Norris Kuhn
Costume Designer: Lisa Magee
Set Design: Chris Magee
Properties Design: Kathy Mead
Choreographer: Kaitlin Branham


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