Butler thespians breathe life into Shakespeare’s comedy ‘Twelfth Night’

Shakespeare plays can be notoriously difficult to direct, but, if creatively interpreted, they can be highly enjoyable. Butler theater’s presentation of “Twelfth Night”  was spot on.

The play, directed by  Professor Elaina Artemiev, is a romantic comedy in which drama, festivity and life abound. Artemiev said those aspects, among others, attracted her to the play, according to the program.

The title of the play refers to the twelfth night of the Christmas season, the Eve of the Feast of Epiphany. In Shakespeare’s time this was a day of revelry and one where cross-dressing was not only accepted, but it was preferred.

The play begins with Viola, played by junior theater major Leslie Lank, shipwrecked on the shores of Illyria where she is promptly taken to the Duke’s court as a page.

Here the cross-dressing is incorporated with Viola disguised as a boy named Cesario, which creates confusion and some funny situations later in the play.

Orsino, the Duke of Illyria is played by senior theater major Raphael Schwartzman. The duke is infatuated with Olivia, a rich countess of Illyria, played by senior theater major Jacqueline Vouga. Orsino sends Cesario, who is in love with Orsino, to tell Olivia of the Duke’s love for her. Having recently lost both her brother and father, Olivia is distraught and reluctantly allows Cesario to enter her chambers. However, Olivia falls in love with Cesario, which is awkward at times, but genuinely funny.
Lank, playing the double role of Viola/Cesario, was particularly fun to watch. She portrayed the woman in disguise extremely well,  while bringing humor to the character by dropping hints about her true gender.

Meanwhile, a group of players, plan against Malvolio. They hatch a plot to convince Malvolio, played by senior theater and digital media productions major Peter Denz, that Olivia is in love with him by forging a letter saying she wishes to marry Malvolio.

Malvolio becomes extremely excited and does what the letter says:  to wear cross gartered yellow stockings and to constantly smile in the presence of Olivia, in the hopes that she will recognize his love for her and marry him.

Those around Malvolio convince Olivia that think he has gone insane and lock him up in a dark cellar.

This sub-plot is done exceedingly well, particularly by Denz and senior theater major Chris Zieglar, who delivered their lines with a certain comedic effect that truly captured the characters.

The whole production of the play captured the festival atmosphere with the decision to include modern elements into the play.

Throughout the production, Sir Andrew flies around the stage on a Razor scooter, and in another scene, when Sir Toby calls for drink and cakes, Sir Andrew responds by pulling out a box of Dunkin Donuts.

These frivolous elements were extremely enjoyable and added modern quirks to an already humorous play.

If you did not see “Twelfth Night” this past week, then you missed out on an enjoyable production of a Shakespeare classic.