"TWELFTH NIGHT" -- A MAGICAL EVENING OF THEATER


BONNIE GOLDBERG

A wonderful green maze, a labyrinth with foot bridges and suggestions of topiaries, is the focal point for the antics, drunken and sober, of Sir Toby Belch and his disreputable comrades. Frequently inebriated and deeply in his cups, Sir Toby resides in the household of his niece, the fair Olivia, who is nursing the double loss of her brother and her father and, therefore, deep in mourning and melancholy.

To enter this convoluted residence, heigh ho over to the Hartford Stage by Sunday, June 16 for a visit with the bard in his delightful comedy "Twelfth Night." After a storm at sea, the twins Viola and Sebastian each independently reach the land of Illyria, both believing the other has drowned.

To preserve her reputation, Viola assumes the garb of a male servant Cesario and seeks sanctuary in the court of Count Orsino. As Cesario, she is soon sent to the lovely Olivia to woo her on behalf of the Count.  Her words of persuasion are so successful that Olivia throws off her dark weeds and, while dashing the hopes of the Count and of Sir Toby's ally Sir Andrew, promptly gives her unwitting heart to Cesario.

Viola/Cesario is captured in the capable hands of Kate MacCluggage, plying the Count's words of affection and cringing when they fly like Cupid's arrows to pierce the heart of Olivia, the agreeable Stacey Yen. Meanwhile the Count, a determined Lea Coco, is growing alarmed by his evolving inappropriate feelings for Cesario.

Romping mischievously around the maze are the merry miscreants Sir Toby (Michael Spencer-Davis), Sir Andrew (Adam Green), Olivia's lady's maid Maria (Jennifer Regan), Fabian (Gregor Paslawsky) and Feste the Fool (Che Ayende). Led by Maria, they concoct a plot to cuckold Olivia's stalwart servant Malvolio, an easily manipulated Bruce Turk. They leave Malvolio a letter purportedly from Olivia professing her love and Malvolio quickly assumes all the dress and attitude she claims to adore. That scene is beautifully staged by director Darko Tresnjak on the magical maze created by Alexander Dodge and is the highlight of a decidedly delightful Shakespearian comedy. Linda Cho's costumes add a special sparkle.

For tickets ($26.50 and up), call the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Stret, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at www.hartfordstage.org. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Sunday and select Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 p.m.

Cupid's arrows fly hither and yon and land in the most unexpected and inappropriate places, with mistaken identity the frequent comic culprit in the hilarious proceedings.

 

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