In saloon style, Feste, a fool, played by Alyssa Bradac encourages the audience to join in “With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,” opening Shakespeare Orange County’s jovial Twelfth Night with song and tomfoolery and yes rain—well sprinkles.
Karissa Vacker as a likeable Viola and Marisa Costa as the beautiful Olivia have the larger parts, and they play well off of each other as Olivia falls in love with Viola, dressed as Cesario, a page. Costa (Olivia) wheezes with excitement, near hyperventilation, as she speaks to Viola. She can’t contain herself as she twirls in dizziness thinking of Viola (or rather Cesario). Her infatuation and devotion should be enough for Cesario to fall in love. Same for Orsino’s love for Olivia. Jeffrey James Lippold walks on stage as tall, dark and handsome looking, like he just came from a historical romance novel photo shoot with his white shirt unbuttoned, but Costa (Olivia) wants nothing to do with him. Costa’s Olivia must be blind, adding to the silliness of this production. John Fredrick Jones as Sir Toby and Kevin Swanstrom as Sir Andrew are diverting as they make trouble. Jones is a sweet drunk as he doesn’t overdue his tipsiness and makes plans with the sexy Amanda Arbues as Maria. Swanstrom’s Sir Andrew is too simple to understand Maria’s flirtation. Arbues puts his hand on her breast: the “buttery bar.” His voice fluctuates from high to low like a cartoon character, dancing around and making dim comments, playing an amusing fool. (His playfulness is much like Mozart in the movie Amadeus plus the obnoxious laugh.) With Maria’s love letter from Olivia to Malvolio planted on the ground, Walcutt (Malvolio) reads it out loud as Jones (Sir Toby), Swanstrom (Sir Andrew) and Michael Drace Fountain (Fabian) relish their mean trick. They move the plants closer to listen in. Fountain takes Walcutt’s cane, unnoticed. The men continue to move around, moving away from Swanstrom, leaving him exposed. He takes a bouquet of flowers to hide behind that Walcutt takes, too blinded by love to notice someone holding them. Everyone is a fool in this production and a fool for love. Malvolio is sure Olivia loves him. With cane in hand as a microphone, he is center stage as a Vegas Elvis, punching the air then leaning into one knee. As silly as Malvolio can be, Walcutt plays air guitar and sings, “Olivia,” as if no one is watching. Bradac’s Feste is the clown, out to prove Olivia a fool. Bradac delights the audience with her singing, trumpet playing and expressions with her raised eyebrows as she proves the other characters are the true fools. Shaun Anthony as Sebastian has a small part, but in those few scenes he is pleasantly surprised when Costa (Olivia) plants a kiss on him. How quickly some of Shakespeare’s male characters fall in love. Anthony is able to make his character believable as he follows Olivia easily to wed.
The stage by Eric Barker is set simply, but cleverly, looking modern with geometric shapes. It doesn’t give any hint as to what to expect as the stage appears modern and the costumes more Victorian. The color is monochromatic, white on white. Different lengths of rectangle paper strips are adhered to vellum paper forming an uneven circle for actors to enter center stage. On the sides is more of the same creating another larger unfinished circle to enter stage right and left. A single color of light shines through the vellum, creating more interest—when the orange light glows, the strips of paper look like a setting sun for the island theme. Lighting design is by William and Jennifer Georges, who also composed original calypso-inspired music for the production.
Costumes by Katie Wilson are not any particular time frame: they are more to fit the tale of the character. Marisa Costa is dressed like a Countess in a black dress and veil to morn her brother. One of her more interesting dresses is colorful with multiple patterns and colors. The skirt is striped with an underlying pattern peeking out that is multicolored polka-dots. To fit Sir Andrew’s outrageous personality Swanstrom wears a pink wig with pink coat and knickers to hint of an iconic Mozart.
Director Thomas F. Bradac and co-director Alyssa Bradac produce a funny Twelfth Night that doesn’t take itself too seriously. When the sprinkles threatened the play Alyssa Bradac as Feste keeps singing and puts her hand out, taking notice of the drops of water—the audience laughs at ease—many other times too. (Take a hoodie and blanket for this amphitheatre.)
Shakespeare Orange County’s festive Twelfth Night offers a night of laughter. The comedic production is easy to follow at a quick pace making Shakespeare palatable for this eager audience.