Twelfth Night – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

Clearly Will Shakespeare, the Bard of thirty seven plays, would be applauding from his grave at the Yale Repertory Theatre’s current masterful production of “Twelfth Night” at the University Theatre in New Haven until Saturday, April 6. Beginning with an exploding kaleidoscope of rainbow projections, this Carl Cofield’s African-American cast production is stuffed with unique additions that make this offering truly enjoyable. Come and see them for yourself in all their creative madness.

Twins Viola and Sebastian encounter a storm at sea that results in each believing the other has died. Landing in the land of Illyria, Viola, an industrious Moses Ingram, virtually a woman alone in a strange place, wisely disguises herself as a man, securing a position as a servant to Duke Orsino (William DeMeritt).The Duke wastes no time sending his new servant, now called Cesario, on a mission. He has been trying to woo the favor of the fair Olivia (Tiffany Denise Hobbs) who is struggling to deal with the deaths of both her father and her brother. Olivia wants no part in romance, whether it is the Duke or any other suitor, like Sir Andrew (Abubakr Ali).

As the Bard was wont to do, mistaken identities are always actively present in his plots. Before you can say “If music be the food of love” three times, Olivia has fallen in love with Viola disguised as Cesario, Cesario has set her cap for the Duke and the Duke is experiencing strange feelings of attraction for his new servant.

In keeping with the festivities of the Twelfth Night holiday, when everything is turned upside down and inside out, a plot is concocted by Sir Toby (Chivas Michael), Sir Andrew (Abubakr Ali), both well inebriated, with the help of Olivia’s maid Maria (Ilia Isorelys Paulino) to present a third suitor to the party for Olivia’s hand. In this case, the goal is to lure Olivia’s sour-faced employee Malvolio (Allen Gilmore) to the fray.

Finding a love letter he believes penned to him by his mistress, Malvolio, in wonderful form, alters his appearance, pasting a huge smile on his face like a jack-o-lantern and donning yellow gartered stockings. Olivia thinks him mad and commits him to prison, a state that delights his tormentors.

While Sir Toby succumbs to the wiles of the clever Maria, Feste the clown (Erron Crawford), with the aid of Fabian (Raffeal A. Sears), presides over the party with dance and song, thanks to Byron Easley and Frederick Kennedy. Scenic design is credited to Riw Rakkulchon, projection designs to Brittany Bland and costuming to Mika H. Eubanks.

By the time Viola’s missing brother Sebastian (Jakeem Dante Powell) wanders onto the stage, with his rescuer Antonio (Manu Kumasi), confusion has reached a fever pitch and is ready for the Bard’s smooth resolution.

For tickets ($31to $92), call the Yale Repertory Theatre at 203-432-1234 or online at www.yalerep.org. Performances at the University Theatre, 222 York Street, New Haven, are Tuesday at 8 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Watch how a tragedy at sea, misplaced affections, seemingly lost love letters, vaudeville routines, mismatched duels, too much drink and a sense of frivolity can provide so much entertainment once the perplexity is dispelled, or maybe because of its presence.

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