Chris Myles shows off his gams in Twelfth Night.
Photo by Manuel Harlan
In the world of Shakespeare, nothing brings nearly as much delight as the prospect of seeing the overbearing steward Malvolio get his comeuppance when he appears dressed in cross-gartered yellow stockings before his mistress, Olivia, who hates both styles.
Just look above at what Propeller, who is presenting Twelfth Night at the Guthrie, has done with the moment. Really, just look at it.
As funny as the moment is -- and it is tremendous -- it also points to a flaw in Edward Hall's vision of Shakespeare's play. It's a production that is great to look at, and one that has plenty of individually wonderful moments. As a complete evening, however, Twelfth Night is lacking. Some of the storytelling gets short shrift, especially the longing and reunion between separated siblings that forms the heart of the play.
There is a lot at play in Twelfth Night, which features a Bard daily double of twins and a woman disguised as a man. At its core, the play is about Olivia, still in mourning after the death of her father and brother and refusing all suitors; and the twins, Viola and Sebastian, who believe the other to be dead following a shipwreck.
In Illyria, Viola disguises herself as a man, enters into the service of a lovesick duke, and is tasked with wooing Olivia. She does it so well that Olivia falls for her, while Viola is falling for the Duke.
Meanwhile, the delightfully named Sir Toby Belch is holding his own endless revels, drinking, debauching, and engaging in meaningless plots, such as getting revenge on Malvolio.
And then things get really knotted when Sebastian finally makes it to town.
Propeller's all-male cast gives a fun bonus layer of sexual confusion to the proceedings, adding to the charge between Duke Orsino and Viola; and then with Olivia and Viola and Sebastian.
Vince Leigh, so captivating as Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, follows it up with an absolutely debauched Sir Toby Belch. He can command the stage even when hiding behind a hedge, and makes for a strong focus to the mad revels side of the story. Chris Myles gives a bit of grace to the pretentious Malvolio, and wears the spandex tights very well.
The production looks and sounds terrific. Hall envisions the setting as an endless party, with the stage decorated with discarded streamers and other debris. When their characters are not onstage, the actors put on masks and lurk around the edges, silently observing the proceedings or providing musical accompaniment -- all led by Feste, the fool (Liam O'Brien), who is really in charge of all of the proceedings.
At this level -- of evoking the anarchistic revels that marked the end of the Christmas season -- Propeller's Twelfth Night succeeds. At the deeper levels that Shakespeare added to the stories in his script, I was left wanting more of the play's heart.
IF YOU GO:
In repertoire with The Taming of the Shrew, now through April 6
818 2nd Ave. S., Minneapolis
For tickets and information, call 612.377.2224 or visit online.