A week ago I had an opportunity to see Shakespeare's Twelfth Night performed at Trinity Repertory Company. I was really excited to see this play because ever since being introduced to Shakespeare as a junior in HS, I have always loved him. When I had an opportunity to study Shakespeare a little more in college, I jumped on the chance and spent two semesters reading his plays and studying his life. And I've even read a few books about his life and times just for fun. Hey, I'm weird like that.
I thought this play was very well done. The time period had been changed to a vaguely Victorian setting, which seemed to work quite well. I was afraid I wouldn't like that since I'm a bit of a traditionalist, but I didn't mind it at all. The set design, by Eugene Lee, was ingenuous and even included a pool of water on stage and rain falling from the ceiling.
The acting was also superb, especially Fred Sullivan, Jr. as Sir Toby Belch. Sullivan played the jolly, bawdy drunk to perfection. Stephen Thorne was also excellent as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, the bumbling, comedic and ridiculous sidekick to Sir Toby. The role of Sir Andrew required a lot of physical comedy and Thorne mastered it. So much so that in one scene one of my seat mates wondered if perhaps Thorne has actually gotten a bloody nose or if it fact that was part of the play.
The icing of the cake, however, was that I had an opportunity to attend a book club style discussion of Twelfth Night and Trinity's production of it the following day at one of the libraries where I work. The discussion was led by two young women who are part of Trinity's Education Department. One of their jobs is to bring the theater experience out into the community. It was fascinating to hear about the reasons that the Director, Brian McEleny (who also played the role of Malvolio), made the choices he did with this production. One of the discussion leaders is a Shakespeare scholar and I learned a bit more about Shakespeare's efforts to keep religion and politics out of his plays and she even explained some of the jokes that were meant to be digs at Shakespeare's contemporary playwright, Ben Johnson. Fascinating stuff (for a nerd like me). As much as I enjoyed the play, being able to participate in such a lively discussion with two people so intimately involved with Trinity and so knowledgeable about Shakespeare added a whole other layer of enjoyment and understanding for me. I hope I have more opportunities like this in the future.