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Shakespeare Comedy Finds New Love at Mather

By Henry M. Cowles, Contributing Writer

If you’re itching for a good time, then Mather seems like the place to be. Particularly if you’re in the mood for Shakespearean hilarity.

Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” will be presented free of charge this weekend in the Mather House Lower Courtyard by the Hyperion Shakespeare Company. The show, produced by Sean R. Fredricks ’07 and directed by Akiva Fox, A.R.T. Institute ’05, is neither a readaptation nor a strict retelling of the original script, but a synthesis of the old and new. “I believe that your first priority is to establish communication between a text and an audience,” Fox wrote in an email, adding, “Actually, I tend to believe that ‘period’ Shakespeare alienates an audience from the essential part of the play.”

Hilarious but at times tragic, “Twelfth Night” begins when fraternal twins Viola (Catherine P. Walleck ’06) and Sebastian (Daniel D. Castro ’06) are shipwrecked in Illyria, each believing the other is dead. The story follows Viola as she dons the guise of a boy and joins the court of Orsino (Fernando Berdion-Del Valle ’08), the local Duke with whom she falls in love. Unfortunately, Orsino is madly in love with Olivia (Anastasia Artemyev ’08), to whom he sends his new page to woo on his behalf.

Of course, Olivia falls for the young messenger, and comedy ensues. Along with a troupe of comrades and the assistance of the wise fool Feste (Abraham J.R. Riesman ’08), who ultimately offers all a lesson in love, Olivia’s wacky uncle Sir Toby Belch (David J. Prum ’80) all the while plots revenge on scrupulous servant Malvolio (Daniel J. Wilner ’07),.

It is this lesson in love in particular that Fox and company hope to bring to the fore. Although many production elements will be reminiscent of Shakespearean times, including the outdoor setting, a few aspects will be updated to deliver the play’s message to a modern audience. “I think the best example of this is in the character of Feste,” says Fox. “In this production he has a project, which is to bring the characters to a more balanced view of love.”

The production will be faithful to both characters and situations, to avoid the recasting Fox calls a “cheap gimmick.” Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the show is its setting: the outdoors will provide the audience with a much more personal show, so scenes flow together in a way that Fox hopes will reflect the mythical setting of Illyria. “Being outside really lets you confound some of the conventions,” wrote Fox, adding that “it puts the actors and the audience on more equal terms.”

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