Mollie Murk & BeeBee Patillo in Twelfth Night. Photo: Bill Brymer
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Matt Wallace
A review by Annette Skaggs
Entire contents are copyright © 2022 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
Hear Ye, Hear Ye our merry band of players have returned, once again, to the C.Douglas Rainey Amphitheater in Central Park to usher in the 62nd Annual Kentucky Shakespeare Festival. What better way to begin but with the highly comical and romantic farce, Twelfth Night.
Due to a shipwreck a set of twins, Viola (Mollie Murk) and Sebastian (Zachary Burrell) are separated off the coast of Illyria. In order to be safe Viola disguises herself as Cesario who then becomes a messenger for Duke Orsino (Braden McCampbell). Orsino is in love with the lovely Olivia (Brittany “BeeBee” Patillo) who is in mourning for her recently deceased father and brother and supported by her steward Malvolio (Jon Huffman), who happens to also be in love with Olivia. When “Cesario” comes to her door as Orsino’s proxy Olivia rebuffs the Duke’s intentions and instantly falls in love with the young messenger.
Meanwhile, Olivia’s cousin Toby Belch (Neill Robertson) wants to introduce fair Olivia to another suitor, Andrew Aguecheek (Shaquille Towns) but uses the introduction as a way to get closer to Olivia’s maid, Maria (Jennifer Pennington).
After a short time, the long thought dead Sebastian arrives to the port along with his mate Antonio (Tyler Tate) and as the fates like to step in, there is mischief, deception and maddening reveals that culminate in love conquers all.
Director Matt Wallace has set this tale in New Orleans, circa 1920’s, complete with references to cool drinks and hot jazz, that just happens to take place live on stage with a handful of local musicians (Laura Ellis, Allison Cross (who also served as music director), May O’Nays, Joshua Poilion and Elijah Smith), lending their talents to add tabasco to the story.
Fortunately, our Shakespearean actors are not only excellent in prose on stage, but some are quite good at prose and musical notes on staff lines. Gregory Maupin, who also brilliantly portrays the fool Feste in the production, wrote a handful of original songs for the band and himself. Often using a simple ukulele with a light undercurrent from the Illyrian Swingers, the songs both filled in gaps and added a new level of entertainment. But here’s the rub, as talented as I know that Gregory is, the evening that I was there there must have been some microphone problems as it was quite difficult to make out some of the lyrics within the songs. A pity really, but these things occur. But as Orsino shares in the opening lines, “If Music be the Food of Love, Play On!”
It would be very easy to go into detail about each and every actor and their portrayals, as they were fabulous, from principles to other characters, but instead I’ll focus on some highlights.
Let’s begin with the merry and mischief trio of Robertson, Towns and Pennington. As I watched I could not help but think that their interaction was derived from decades of vaudevillian stagecraft. The comedic timing and pure joy that came from these three was delightful, beginning to end. Not to mention, it was nice to see Robertson on the boards once more.
Poor Malvolio, the butt of the merry pranksters three. Jon Huffman was an absolute charmer within this role. Another charmer was that of Burrell’s Sebastian. Stately and in command, he exuded charisma and confidence.
McCampbell’s Orsino was also a delight as he suffered in unrequited love of Olivia, he was steadfast in knowing that love was just around the corner, in fact, at his right hand. And speaking of Olivia, Ms. Patillo embodied her with free spirit and a good bit of bawdiness. She knew how to use what she was given.
Mollie Murk as Cesario/Viola was steady and endearing. Playing a role such as these takes a concentration and bit of panache to pull off, which Murk did exceedingly well.
While the play may be the thing, let’s talk about the costumes. It was is if these characters were lifted straight off the pages of fashion magazines of the Jazz Age. Flapper dresses, long pearls, fabulous fedoras, tailored suits, black and white shoes. It was all a feast for the eyes. Big round of applause to Donna Lawrence-Downs for these designs.
The scenic designs by Karl Anderson certainly gave a Big Easy feel, but I fear that some of the painting was a little haphazard, as the colors and lines did not pop out as I had hoped. Perhaps that was the intent because of the humidity in the air that can dull colors, but I was looking for a bit more vibrancy.
The soundscape by Laura Ellis, who also served as one of the minstrels within the Illyrian Swingers, was well-curated, including an interesting variation of A-Ha’s “Take on Me”, but of course, the best sound was from the Swingers.
All said, Kentucky Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night is a delicious romp into the folly of love and one that I am sure I’ll be seeing again before its run is complete.
Featuring Zachary Burrell, Jon Huffman, Justin M. Jackson, Tom Luce, Abigail Bailey Maupin, Gregory Maupin, Braden McCampbell. Molly Murk, BeeBee Patillo, Jennifer Pennington, Tyler Tate, Shaq Towns, & Nick Wills
Band: Allison Cross, Laura Ellis, May O’Nays, Joshua Poilion and Elijah Smith
May 25 – 28, June 1 – 5, July 13, 16, 19 & 22, 2022
Shakespeare Festival in Central Park
C. Douglas Ramey Amphitheater
1340 S. Fourth St.
Louisville, KY 40208
Annette Skaggs is heavily involved as an Arts Advocate here in Louisville. She is a freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe and in St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career, she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York City Opera, and Northwestern University. Her knowledge and expertise have developed over the course of 25+ years’ experience in the classical arts.