Classic Theatre of Maryland’s production of Twelfth Night is a fun way to begin their 10th anniversary season. Director Sally Boyett creatively transplants Shakespeare’s classic comedy of cross-dressing, mistaken identities, and unrequited love to the world of 1920s Hollywood.
Teddy Wright gives a passionate confidence to Viola, marooned in this strange land. Disguised as a man, Cesario, she pursues Olivia (Anna Wiley) on behalf of Orsino (Ryan Nicholas Cooper), fiercely speaking her mind when she rejects the avowals of love. Realizing Olivia loves her, Viola speaks in amazement and sadness.
Anna Wiley plays Olivia with a similar passion, first rejecting Orsino’s suit before pursuing Cesario. She pulls Wright into a tango, dancing across the stage and putting a rose between her teeth.
John Pruessner gives a charming zest to Sir Toby, Olivia’s uncle. Sipping from a concealed flask, he stumbles up the steps and chases after Maria (Nancy Krebs). He uses his cane to redirect Viola. Liam Gerard plays Toby’s friend Sir Andrew as a fun-loving simpleton, always up for games with the gang but never quite catching the jokes. Nancy Krebs plays the maid Maria with great cunning.
Parker Cross gives a comic severity to Malvolio, the “Puritan” steward. He roars at Toby and Andrew as they play late at night. Later, trying to smile, he forces a grimace. Pursuing Olivia, he drapes over the sofa and makes kissy faces in a hilarious attempt at seduction. He gives an emotional depth to the role as well, protesting his sanity and howling at his suffering. He changes from a figure of fun to a sympathetic character.
Austin Rubinoski gives an energetic playfulness to the clown Feste. His jokes “give shade” to almost everyone. Reading a letter from Malvolio, he begins in a comic howl, as the madman who wrote it would. He sings and dances wonderfully, throwing his whole body into the performance. He does a lovely silent comedy routine after intermission. He gives a fierce determination as Antonio, in love with Sebastian (Ethan Graham-Horowitz). Rushing in defense of his beloved, he strikes Andrew.
Ethan Graham-Horowitz plays Viola’s twin brother Sebastian with great optimism, taking the situation as it presents itself. Ryan Nicholas Cooper plays Orsino with an obsessive love, determined to win Olivia. Dexter Hamlett gives a comic energy as Fabian, Toby and Andrew’s friend in the scheme against Malvolio.
Scenic Designer Salydon Boyken places large plants throughout the stage, especially on both stairs at either end. These play a comical role in a scene. A large phonograph rests on the top left-hand side. Projections Designer Sally Boyett throws up silent black-and-white film on the screen in back, adding a special effect at play’s end.
Costume Designer Sally Boyett has created outfits reminiscent of the 1920s that also help distinguish the characters. Viola as Cesario wears a green plaid suit with a grey cap, as does Sebastian. Olivia begins the play in a sparkly black dress with a veil, later changing to a sparkly red one. Malvolio looks dour in a butler’s uniform but brightens up considerably once he puts on cross-gartered yellow stockings. Feste wears a Charlie Chaplin-like long coat, pants, and hat, along with a cane.
Lighting Designer Halley LaRue brings a spotlight on Feste for his solo performances and turns the lights red for a tango between Olivia and Cesario. Music feeling like the period, composed and recorded by Marc Irwin, plays throughout the performance. Voice and Dialect Coach Nancy Krebs ensures the actors’ accents are accurate and understandable, although Cross, a very “English”-sounding Malvolio, can be a little challenging to understand at times. Sally Boyett does a wonderful job as director, giving the actors many lovely movements, from brief dueling to dancing and circling around each other. Everything comes together to bring a classic play to gorgeous life.
Running Time: Approximately 2 hours 20 minutes, including a 20-minute intermission.
Twelfth Night plays through October 30, 2022, at Classic Theatre of Maryland – 1804 West Street, Suite 200, Annapolis, MD. For tickets ($55–$75), call the box office at 410-415-3513 or purchase online.
The online program is available here.