In The Old Globe’s outdoor production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, the seasons are inverted. In Britain and elsewhere, Christmas is celebrated for twelve days (can you recite the list of gifts that “my true love gave to me” on the twelfth day of Christmas)? It often rained, sometimes snowed, which provides a song sung by Feste (Esco Jouléy) with the lyric, “and the rain it raineth every day.” Not usually the case in San Diego summer, but then our weather has been somewhat inverted this year.
It didn’t rain the night I saw Twelfth Night. In fact, I didn’t hear any of the zoo animals, either. Rather, Lawrence E. Moten III’s scenic design rotated in careful collaboration with Stephen Strawbridge’s lighting to reveal one scene after another of characters lavishly costumed by Michael Krass all speaking the speech as well amplified by Melanie Chen Cole’s sound design.
Director Kathleen Marshall is known for musicals as much as for plays (including two previous outings with Shakespeare at The Old Globe), and her productions love to sing. In fact, there is original music for this production, written by Miriam Sturm and Michael Bodeen. Morgan Carberry leads a musical ensemble on violin as set pieces whirl.
Part of Twelfth Night’s plot rests on the necessity for disguise. Viola (Naian González Norvind) and her twin brother, Sebastian (Jose Balistrieri) have been shipwrecked, and while Viola has made it to shore in Illyria, there is no word about her twin brother. It is not safe for a single woman, so Viola disguises herself as a young man named Cesario and finds employment in the court of Duke Orsino (Biko Eisen-Martin). Orsino dispatches Cesario as his emissary to the Lady Olivia (Medina Senghore). Olivia has no desire to be wooed by Orsino, but she is taken with Cesario and does her best to encourage him to keep visiting her.
Meanwhile, members of Olivia’s household are plotting. Olivia’s relative, Sir Toby Belch (Cornell Womack) is urging his well-to-do friend, Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Jason O’Connell) to stay and woo Olivia, spending his money on drink for Sir Toby in the process. Sir Toby is also plotting against Olivia’s steward, Malvolio (Greg Germann) who disapproves of Sir Toby’s spendthrift ways. As a result of Toby’s plot, Malvolio comes to believe that his mistress is in love with him but demands that he prove his love through dressing in an outrageous manner, one that Toby knows Olivia will disapprove.
The principals are well cast, and Ms. Marshall has directed them to eschew over-the-top portrayals. Thus, Malvolio is a businessman who harbors easily tapped feelings for his employer, Sir Andrew is not foppish, as he is often played, Viola and Sebastian actually look like they might be twins.
A bit of a warning: because the production is performed outdoors, it needs to start at 8pm. With one fifteen-minute intermission, the run time is two hours and forty minutes, which means that it’s a late night for many audience members.
There are two entries in this summer’s Shakespeare Festival. The other is also a comedy – The Merry Wives of Windsor – which begins in late July. Meanwhile, Ms. Marshall’s Twelfth Night should provide a perfect antidote to any summer travails, both national and local.
Performs Tuesday through Sunday at 8pm through July 9 in the Lowell Davies Festival Theatre, in Balboa Park. Free parking is available throughout the park, and Valet parking may be arranged through the box office. For tickets, call (619) 234-5623, or online at https://www.theoldglobe.org.
Cast members not mentioned by name in the review are Madeline Grace Jones (Curio), Sarah Joyce (Maria), Becca Lustgarten (Priest), Carter Piggee (Officer 2), Jeffrey Rashad (Valentine), Bernadette Sefic (Fabian), Vandous Stripling II (Officer 1), Jude Tibeau (Antonio), Maggie Walters (Sea Captain), and Luana Fontes, Camilla Leonard, and Emma Svitil (Ensemble). Creative Team principals not listed by name are Ursula Meyer (Voice and Text Coach), Jake Millgard (Fight Consultant), Tara Rubin Casting/Claire Burke, CSA (Casting), and Jess Slocum (Production Stage Manager).