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Twelfth Night: The Proto-Mistaken-Identity Comedy

ISF brings on the belly laughs

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Nobody writes a fool like the Bard, and nowhere are his comedic skills on better display than in Idaho Shakespeare Festival's newest production, Twelfth Night, which runs through Sunday, Aug. 28.

The strong ensemble cast worked beautifully together, creating a parade of fools that elicited belly laughs as the production slipped fluidly between scenes. The result was a wildly funny, entertaining show—there's a grown man in a corset thrown in for good measure. Credit also goes to veteran ISF director Drew Barr, who helped craft a high-energy, accessible interpretation of one of Shakespeare's best-loved comedies, setting it in the Bohemian 1960s.

Twelfth Night is the ultimate tale of mistaken identities and tribulations of the heart. After a shipwreck, twins Viola (Cassandra Bissell) and Sebastian (Jonathan Christopher MacMillan) are separated, each washing up on the shore of a foreign land and thinking the other dead. Viola disguises herself as a boy to serve as a page for Duke Orsino (Juan Rivera Lebron), who is infatuated with countess Olivia (Christine Weber), who wants nothing to do with him.

Presenting the Duke's case to Olivia, Viola (now Cesario) inadvertently causes the Countess to fall for him/her. In true Shakespearean fashion, Viola/Cesario is in love with the Duke. Plus, Olivia has other suitors and then there's the sudden appearance of Sebastian, who bears a striking resemblance to Viola/Cesario, and then there are the machinations of servants and relatives ... got all that?

While the entire cast is strong, the standouts were undeniably the fools, led by Aled Davies as Olivia's uncle Sir Toby Belch, Tom Ford as Olivia's would-be suitor Sir Andrew Aguecheek, M.A. Taylor as the too-smart-for-his-own-good jester Feste, and Lynn Robert Berg as Olivia's full-of-himself steward Malvolio. They owned the show, fleshing out full characters, not caricatures, creating moments so funny, the audience's laughter occasionally drowned out dialogue. Additionally, kudos to musical director Joel Mercier for his smart use of live music.

If you want to forget the gym for a day, see ISF's Twelfth Night. Your stomach muscles will definitely get a workout.