A Great Show is Born, Achieved and Thrust Upon Us
By Lauren Yarger
Some shows are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em. The Public Theater’s rendition of Twelfth Night for this year’s Shakespeare in the Park is just great. Period.
Anne Hathaway makes a stunning New York stage debut as Viola, who, believing her twin brother, Sebastian (Stark Sands), has drowned in the shipwreck that washes her up on the shores of Illyria, disguises herself as a man known as Cesario to serve Duke Orsino (Raul Esparza). The Duke sends Cesario to court Countess Olivia (Audra McDonald), but she is taken instead, with Cesario, whose pretense becomes more difficult as Viola falls in love with Orsino.
Orsino becomes attracted to Viola, but that's problematic since she's, well, a man, or so he thinks.
Mistaken identity and some other subplots (I’ll let you read Spark Notes if you aren’t already familiar with the story) bring great comedic bits. Adding to the humor are strong performances from Hamish Linklater, who plays Andrew Aguecheck, also a suitor of Olivia, Jay Sanders in the as Sir Toby Belch, Olivia’s uncle, and Julie White as Maria, Olivia’s plotting gentlewoman.
Director Daniel Sullivan makes the most of all the talent and of the enchanting set, by rolling actors as well as props up and down John Lee Beatty’s rolling green hills with built in stairs and trees, all set in front of Central Park’s towering Belvidere Castle. Lighting is by Peter Kaczorowski and the sound, which should be a model for all outdoor productions, is by Acme Sound Partners.
Hathaway and Esparza as well as others (though, disappointingly, not McDonald) lend their really pleasant voices to wonderful Celtic-sounding music by HEM, supervised and arranged by Greg Pliska and played by five musicians on stage and in costume (Jane Greenwood, designer, dresses everyone in 18th century-looking garb). Choreographer Mimi Lieber matches the “what you will” feel of the evening with delightful, joy-filled dance.
The show is one of the freshest and most entertaining renditions of the classic I have ever seen and it’s truly a night of great fun, from the free tickets to the top-notch performances to the really unbelievably, indescribably delicious sandwiches at theater cafe. Even some of the last words from the play, put to music, seem to be written for this summer alone: “for the rain, it raineth every day.” And indeed most of the performances have been presented despite the weather.
The show runs through July 12 at the park’s Delacorte Theater. For the free tickets, you can wait in line at the park, or take a chance in the virtual line online. Visit http://www.publictheater.org/content/view/126/219/.
Christians might also like to know:
• Don’t be put off by the advertising campaign that touts the show and the production of The Bacchae that will follow as “cross dressing in the park.” Viola’s donning of men’s wear is situational, not sexual in choice.