Fine acting rounds out Owens’ ‘Twelfth Night’

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In Owens’ new version of Shakespeare’s "Twelfth Night," the fool gets the first word.
Playing the clown, Owens music faculty member Eric Wallack greets the audience with a song. Throughout
the show he intersperses his original melodies into the comedic action, serving to lighten the already
frothy comedy.
"Play On! A New Adaptation of Shakespeare’s ‘Twelfth Night’" opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. and
continues with shows Friday and Saturday at 7:30 and Sunday at 3 p.m. in Mainstage Theatre.
This is easy-going Shakespeare. With seating  on stage, the production has the feel of playing out in
your living room with actors, dressed in 1970s garb, at times directly addressing audience members. It’s
like your hi-def TV has come to life.
The immediacy adds immensely to the show, and also puts demands on the performers. No hiding here, every
action is exposed. The cast is up to the challenge.
Their first job is to make sure Shakespeare’s verse is understood. The language may be antique but when
enunciated clearly is still rings true, and contemporary.
"Twelfth Night" is another of Shakespeare’s twin plays. In this case brother-sister twins who
are separated in a shipwreck.
Viola (Alyson Phillips) washes ashore in Illyria thinking her brother Sebastian (Dalton Elza) has
drowned.¬† With the help of the ship’s captain (Ben Quintanilla in one of three roles) she decides to
disguise herself as a male (because this is a Shakespeare comedy I guess) and introduce herself to Duke
Orsino, She soon becomes his trusted aide, who takes tidings of his true love to Olivia (Amanda
Schmidt), a noblewoman in mourning for her father and brother. She has pledged not to see any suitors
for seven years.
Despite Olivia’s resolution, she’s much in demand, including by her drunken uncle Toby Belch (Jeremy
Allen Wilkes), who much to her displeasure carouses at all hours in her house. There’s the vain,
blowhard knight Andrew Aguecheek (Jeremy Stuart), who complains of her attentions to others, and then
there’s her steward Malvolio (John Toth), a self-righteous prig.
The merry band of tricksters, including the maid Maria (Marisa Soto), conspire to trick Malvolio into
thinking Olivia loves him, and make him appear before her in a manner and dressed calculated to annoy
her and amuse them.
Toth particularly nails the way the officious Malvolio, fueled by delusions of grandeur, is willing to
completely change to impress his mistress.
But the one who captures Olivia’s heart is the disguised Viola.
Matters take a serious turn when Antonio (Drew Young), who has saved Sebastian, is arrested, and is
dismayed when he confuses the disguised Viola for Sebastian, and cannot get the money he needs to bail
himself out.
All this plays out breezily with plenty of comedy. All ends well for all concerned (except Malvolio)
including the audience.

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