No one can ever accuse Shakespeare of not using a plot device to its fullest. Big Will loved a good case of mistaken identity. But how do you make it even better? You use a set of twins. That's right, twins, plus mistaken identity, plus presumed death, equals comic hilarity in iambic pentameter.
The equation is one the Idaho Shakespeare Festival has explored in full this season, with the two-sets-of-twins-mistaken-identity-presumption-of-death comedy, Comedy of Errors earlier this summer, and the single-set-of-twins-mistaken-identity-presumption-of-death comedy, Twelfth Night, now running at the festival.
And while it might seem a bit redundant, you really can't get enough of confused twins and the mayhem they instigate when they both hit town.
Twelfth Night is a fun, bawdy comedy in the truest tradition of the Bard, and thanks to some seriously adept script interpretation and line delivery, ISF's production plays up the base, raucous and slightly dirty nature of the material in a way that even modern audiences can get the joke.
Amid the accolades and words like "classic" and "timeless," it's sometimes easy to forget just how bawdy Shakespeare was. While, sure, he penned some of the greatest English plays of all time, he was also writing for the groundlings, who appreciated nothing more than a little sex-based humor.
The premise of Twelfth Night is that a set of adult twins, Viola (Sara Bruner) and her brother, Sebastian (Kevin Crouch), are on a ship that wrecks, each thinking the other is dead. Viola washes up in Illyria, home to Duke Orsino (Jonas Cohen), who Viola happens to have a thing for. So, Viola decides the best way to get close to the duke is to dress like a man and serve as his attendant, Cesario.
While Viola is working her way into the duke's good graces, the duke sends her/him to woo Countess Olivia (Jodi Dominick), who wants nothing to do with the duke, but develops quite a crush on Viola/Cesario. Enter Sebastian—who is somehow considered the identical twin of this cross-dressing sister—and romantic chaos reigns.
The true highlight of ISF's production, though, are the fools, a bit of comic relief within a comedy. In this play, the fools take the form of Olivia's uncle, Sir Toby Belch (Andrew May) and would-be suitor, Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Ian Gould). May and Gould have a beautiful comic partnership, which they showed off earlier this year when they played the twins in Comedy of Errors. This time around, they are roving drunkards, with aims at causing a bit of mischief. Sir Toby is a bewigged "gentleman" who enjoys nothing more than running around with Sir Andrew, a slightly foppish Frenchman whom Gould plays in heavy white pancake makeup and stockings.
They are joined by Eduardo Placer, who plays Feste, one of Shakespeare's best-known jesters, and fellow servant Fabian (M.A. Taylor). As a group, they play off each other with ease, and even rose to the challenge when a roving peacock wandered into the middle of a recent performance to upstage them—quite literally.
The production is set against an exotic, Moorish backdrop and, accordingly, the costumes are rich in color, texture and detail. The simple set pieces allow for easy and economical, yet effective, set changes—something which has become the hallmark of ISF productions.
Unfortunately, Twelfth Night has one of the shortest runs of the season, closing on Sunday, Aug. 30, so fans of Shakespearean comedy (or maybe just twins) shouldn't dawdle.
For tickets and information, visit idahoshakespeare.org.