By Christina Houghton
Deception and disguise take center stage in Macalester’s production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. This comedy tells the story of a brother (Sebastian) and sister (Viola) whose fates and shapes are jostled by a violent shipwreck. Separated from her brother by the storm, Viola lands in the mysterious Illyria where she disguises herself as an eunuch under the command of the handsome bachelor Orsino. While assuming the costume and identity of a male, Viola falls for Orsino, who himself is attempting to woo another woman, Olivia (who is, consequently, still mourning the loss of her recently-deceased brother). To make matters more complicated, Orsino sends the androgynous Viola (known to him by the masculine name of Cesario) to court his beloved Olivia. Unfortunately for everyone, Viola’s unscripted charm and youthful figure wins the heart of Olivia. Viola best describes this misinformed and ill-fated love triangle: “My master loves [Olivia] dearly; / And I, poor monster, fond as much on him; / And she, mistaken, seems to dote on me.”For those of you who haven’t actually read Twelfth Night, I won’t untangle this mystery and spoil the ending. Let’s just say that the maze of confusion becomes even more complex when Viola’s twin brother, Sebastian, finally lands in Illyria himself. In Twelfth Night, disguise becomes a character in its own rite. Combined with an actor’s vocabulary of gestures, disguise gives each personage license to act outside of the social norms. In this way, Twelfth Night becomes a perfectly-suited forum to explore issues of identity and gender, deliberately confused in the course of the play.Shakespeare’s lines are often hard to make your own. Macalester’s ensemble, however, creatively constructs their characters’ identities and actions in this production of Twelfth Night. From a deliberately awkward Orsino (played by Patrick Schnarrenberger), who quickly dispels moments of homoerotic tension with a forced cough, to a decidedly ridiculous Malvolio (Andi Cheney), whose pretentious mannerisms appropriately make him the butt of every joke, Macalester’s cast has worked hard to make this complicated play one coherent whole. Imaginative choreography and stage direction actively propel the plot forward while the delightfully drunken duo of Sir Toby Belch (Lucas Gerstner) and Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Ian Lempke) offer genuine comic relief.In an added twist, Mac’s production is set against the backdrop of Randi Grundahl’s Jazz-Age inspired score and 1920s costumes. Some unexpectedly preppy finishing touches include an equestrian outfit, golf and even cricket. The sets themselves, designed by Kate Sutton-Johnson, are simply dazzling. William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night will be performed at Macalester’s MainStage Theatre on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Run-time is approximately two-and-a-half hours.