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The Bard meets the ’80s

JONATHAN R. RETARTHA | Wednesday, April 6, 2005

Everyone loves the ’80s. How could they not with “Back to the Future,” “Risky Business,” “Scarface,” “Twelfth Night?” That’s right, The Not-So-Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of the classic Shakespeare comedy blends everything good about the ’80s with everything good about rollicking Elizabethan theatre. Director David Tull takes his audience to 1980s Illyria, where Shakespeare’s cast of aristocrats and their men are replaced with ’80s businessmen and women and their entourages who prefer jean jackets, suspenders and colorful suits with big shoulder pads to the usual Shakespearean garb. The play starts with Duke Orsino, played by Jeff Eyerman, who, although at first glance seems to have everything in the world he could want, is still without that which is most important to him – love. The scene then changes to the shipwreck scene with a young woman named Viola (Liz Clouse). Viola arrives in Illyria and soon after, disguised as a man, comes into the service of the Duke, who asks her to woo the wealthy and noble Lady Olivia (Molly Kealy) for him. Although Olivia yearns for love, she is still a businesswoman trying to balance her professional and personal desires. The Duke’s plan goes awry when Olivia falls for Viola, thinking her a man. To further add to the plot, Viola has no idea that her twin brother, Sebastian (Mike Dolson), is still alive after the shipwreck and is searching for her. When Sebastian finally makes it to Illyria with the help of Antonia (Alyssa Brauweiler), he, like his sister, is placed right in the middle of the aristocratic social scene. Thus, confusion and hilarity ensue over the twins and those who love them. To add to the comedy, the adventures of Lady Olivia’s entourage, the aptly named Sir Toby Belch (Brandon McGirr), his crafty partner Maria (Meghann Tabor), the wise fool Feste (Elizabeth Grams) and the unassumingly hilarious Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Emmanuel Zervoudakis) are also played out on stage. The partying and mischief of the four are constantly getting on the nerves of Olivia’s proud steward Malvolio (Joe Garlock), with over-the-top confidence and seriousness that leads to riotous results when Olivia’s entourage decides to trick Malvolio into thinking Olivia has feelings for him. The play roars to a conclusion with mistaken identities, duels, face-offs and of course, marriages. The craziness and excess of the ’80s is constantly at play during the performance with numerous ’80s hits such as Huey Lewis and the News’ “Power of Love,” Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” U2’s “All I Want is You” and even some acoustic guitar work by Feste providing both a fun and powerful soundtrack for the parties and the struggles of the characters. Moreover, the ’80s business-world setting of the production fits perfectly in the Jordan Auditorium and Tull’s use of the entire space, not just the stage, puts the audience right in the middle of the play. The true spirit of fun and partying that was the twelfth night celebration in London is perfectly captured in the production, with the several parties and dance numbers not overpowering the play, but instead enhancing the overall setting and mood. The play overall moves very quickly and gives its audience a stream of non stop laughs as classic plots about love and friendship are played out. This will surely become a sentimental favorite for anyone who sees this production, which is a refreshing spin on an old favorite. “Twelfth Night” will be performed in the Jordan Auditorium in Mendoza on Saturday, April 9 and Sunday, April 10 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and are on sale at the LaFortune Box Office and at the door.