June 20, 2002


Twelfth Night
What You Will

reviewed by
Lynn Trenning


















For more about Lynn Trenning, please visit her main page.

For more information about Chickspeare, please visit chickspeare.org.

(special to the Charlotte Observer)

The all-female cast of Chickspeare has a great time bandying about the many degrees of foolishness revealed in Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night. These women cheerfully go about playing men who play women who play men, arbitrarily falling in and out of love at first sight with the ease of dealing a deck of cards. Gender barely matters, though every sexual opportunity is greedily seized. Sometimes the flagrancy works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Chickspeare thoughtfully provided a tutorial to Shakespearean drama, complete with explanations of audience participation, and a plot summary for the uninitiated. I don’t know whether to feel insulted or not at the assumption that the audience won’t understand the play.

After an invitation by two cast members to join in the singing, the play opens with a shipwreck where siblings Viola and Sebastian are separated and believe each other to be dead. Viola disguises herself as a man and goes to work for Duke Orsino. The rest of the play surrounds a plot where Orsino loves Olivia who loves Viola who is disguised as Cesario who loves Orsino, and so on. The action occurs in the seaside town of Illyria, a magical place where class, gender and drunkenness ultimately don’t interfere with relationships, with few exceptions.

Director Joanna Gerdy achieves a commanding performance as Olivia. It is gratifying to watch her vacillate between a woman who could obviously run a corporate boardroom, to a tittering lovelorn maiden. Nicia Carla Moore’s hollowed cheeks and disdainful head wagging captures the arrogant piety of Olivia’s steward Malvolio. Moore’s manifestation of a smile rivaled Dorothy’s oiling of the Tin Man for expression development.

Though the deception of Malvolio began in hilarity, with Olivia’s cadre of clowns and fools acting as statues in the garden, sloppy stage movement slowed its momentum. Fortunately the hilarious Sir Andrew Aguecheek, played foppishly by Emily Hewson, was capable of reigniting any stalls in the action. Continuously drunk and congenitally stupid, Hewson’s Aguecheek stole the show with her yellow and red Scottish golf outfit, her range of facial distortions and Gumby-like legs.

Gerdy inventively cast Sheila Snow Proctor as an Al Capone-like Duke with a cadre of spat-wearing gangsters in her stable. On the other hand, Meredith McBride, who played Sebastian, wore an inexplicable half smile from the moment of the initial shipwreck through each of her scenes.

I loved Brian Ruggaber’s background painting of Illyria, which featured the eggplant, rust and golden colors featured in many a trendy home decor store.

Lynn Trenning, June 20, 2002

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