Sunday, July 29, 2012

New American Shakespeare Tavern

Saturday night I went out on a date to the New American Shakespeare Theatre to see Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare.

Like many of Shakespeare's comedies, this one centres on mistaken identity. The leading character, Viola, is shipwrecked on the shores of Illyria during the opening scenes. She loses contact with her twin brother, Sebastian, whom she believes to be dead. Masquerading as a young page under the name Cesario, she enters the service of Duke Orsino through the help of the sea captain who rescues her. Orsino has convinced himself that he is in love with the bereaved Lady Olivia, whose father and brother have recently died, and who will have nothing to do with any suitors, the Duke included. Orsino decides to use "Cesario" as an intermediary to tell Olivia about his love for her. Olivia, believing Viola to be a man, falls in love with this handsome and eloquent messenger. Viola, in turn, has fallen in love with the Duke, who also believes Viola is a man, and who regards her as his confidant.

The major themes are young women seeking independence in a "man's world", "gender-bending" and "same-sex attraction" (albeit in a roundabout way). Typical and riotously fun Shakespeare comedy. The theatre is a very intimate setting with the main floor being literally next to the stage. We were sitting maybe 50 feet from the stage with an unobstructed view of the performance. Really perfect seats. I'm not one who likes to sit in the first row. Does not give the complete perspective of the performance.There is also balcony seating. The first act was 90 minutes in length. It seemed a bit long and drawn out. It was easy to tell that the actors were very comfortable in their roles and taking them to the limit. (This was the next to last show of this comedy). After intermission there was another 75 minutes of the second act. As Shakespeare does in all of his comedies, the first act is to set up the second act for the discoveries and humiliations to come.

Twelfth Night is the classic example of this. The performance was wonderful especially in the intimate surroundings. Having been to the Globe Theatre in Stratford-on-Avon, this gets as close as one can to the original Shakespeare experience.

They serve a dinner menu, drinks and dessert. Most of that is quite forgettable. (The Apple Crisp, which I had during intermission, was good, though). I'd rather have dinner before or after the show.

One of my favorite movies is Shakespeare in Love. The main female character is one Viola de Lesseps played by Gwyneth Paltrow. At the end of the movie Queen Elizabeth requests a comedy from Shakespeare. A Twelfth Night. The film closes as Shakespeare begins to write Twelfth Night, Or What You Will imagining his love washed ashore in a strange land after a shipwreck and musing, "For she will be my heroine for all time, and her name will be...Viola", a strong young woman castaway who disguises herself as a young man.

I always cry at the end of the movie. But the happy ending of Twelfth Night makes me so happy!

Andrea Nicole Baker

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