The company of Twelfth Night. Photo: CTC

Twelfth Night, or What You Will

By William Shakespeare
Directed by Charlie Sexton

A review by Kate Barry

Entire contents are copyright © 2024 Kate Barry. All rights reserved.

Love can make you crazy. It makes you totally irrational, impulsive, and downright ridiculous. You say, do, and wear things you otherwise might not. For example, yellow stockings or better yet, a smile! When it came to writing about love William Shakespeare knew his stuff. The comedy Twelfth Night, or What You Will shows how foolishly people act when under the flustered influence and how matters of the heart can change a person for the better.

Notably, the bold costumes of this play make a statement about the characters, Illyria, and the emotional themes within the production. Lindsey Chamberlin’s turn-of-the-century steam-punk motif with gorgeous tones of purple, blue, and dark colors accentuates the island affected by a torrential storm and loss. These beautiful tones bring a whole new meaning to the appearance of yellow stockings in the second act. In a brazen act of love, the stoic and staunch Malvolia (played with a superb straightface by Eli Turner) is upended by his fashion choices. Top hats and other headwear are adorned by buttons, goggles, and doo-dads while outfits are crisp and finely fitted with a ruffled skirt and trousers. Headwear plays a more subtle role in this production, where male-identifying characters wear fedoras and top hats, and characters identifying as women wear veils and fasteners with lace and ribbon. 

As Orsino proclaims in his opening line, “If music be the food of life, play on,” and lively glam rock instrumental is played between scenes. It would only stand to reason to bring the more energetic music into the play. In a play about mistaken identity and mix-em-ups, the presence of an acoustic guitar and nearly acapella singing was underwhelming in comparison, especially for a character-rich in wordplay such as Feste (played with a sincere effort on delivery by Milo Barker). With a fashion statement like steampunk and such lively music, the staging was unfortunately flat in comparison.

But all is not lost for this production at Walden Theater. Char Meeley brings a steadfast presence as Viola. Her delivery of “I left no ring with her” channels a stand-up comedian in the process of making revelations in a very awkward situation. She brings the same comic energy with asides to the audience throughout Viola’s journey as Cessario, telling her audience how foolish love is every chance she gets. Max Wright shows promise with his comedic talents as Viola’s lost brother, Sebastian. Trace Henderson brings sweet sensitivity to Duke Orsino and has fun pining over his newfound servant. Kailegh Chesman’s Olivia is a sassy countess who will get what she wants, despite the irony of the situation. 

Nate Brantley’s Sir Toby Belch has notable stage time with Atticus Haden’s Sir Andrew Aguecheek, Zaden Boeckman’s Fabian, and Anya Cullen’s Maria. These four create a funny ensemble of drunken uncles and servants in aid of Olivia. Foppish and quick, they have perfect timing as they trick the grumpy Malvolia into believing he’s in love. In a moment of quick thinking, the four managed some unruly tree scenery and work it cleverly into the scene. Truly, this is what good acting looks like in a production of already strong upcoming performers.

In the end, true identities are revealed, lost siblings are reunited and happy endings are made. While love can make you crazy, it is also absolutely wonderful. And in Twelfth Night at Walden Theater, love is all around.

Twelfth Night, or What You Will

Part of the Young American Shakespeare Festival

May 13, 15, 17 @ 7:30 pm
May 11 @ 2:00 pm

Commonwealth Theater Center
1123 Payne Street
Louisville, KY, 40204

Kate Barry has worked with many different companies around town since graduating in 08 from Bellarmine University. She’s worked with CenterStage, Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, Bunbury Theater, Louisville Repertory Company, Walden Theater, Finnigan Productions. She used to work in the box office at that little performing arts center on Main Street but now she helps save the planet. In 2012, her short play “PlayList” won festival favorite in the Finnigan Festival of Funky Fresh Fun. Her play “Catcher Released” won an honorable mention with the Kentucky Playwrights Workshop. She has written for LEO Weekly and as well. When she is not writing, she teaches yoga. Thanks for reading!