"Twelfth Night makes a splash at Navy Pier
This jolly and enjoyable show at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater was conceived as a happily organic homage both to traditional Shakespearean comedy, pretty much as the old fellow wrote it for land-locked London, as well as to those warm-weather pleasures of the water.
Lucy Osborne, the visiting British set designer and Rourke’s frequent collaborator, took inspiration from the boardwalk struts of the urban pier and wrestled them into a huge wooden heart, leading seductively into a huge tank of water wherein Olivia, Viola and the rest of the crew wade, paddle, splash the front rows, frolic and even, in the deep bit, dive."
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"Shakespeare by the pool... this watery circus is boisterous fun.
Confusion certainly is the name of the game in this play as an attractive pair of twins—Viola (the winningly fresh Michelle Beck) and her twin brother Sebastian (loose, funny Peterson Townsend)—are separated at sea, and end up causing quite a stir once on land.
Orsino (Mark L. Montgomery), the laughably melancholy Duke of Illyria, pines for the countess Olivia (Karen Aldridge). But when Viola disguises herself as a boy and arrives to serve Orsino (and woo Olivia on his behalf), both parties become strangely attracted to this charming "boy," even as Viola falls for the Duke.
It is the clowns and fools who attend Olivia who fare best in this watery slapstick circus, with a glowingly conspiratorial Ora Jones as the countess' mischievous maid Maria; Scott Jaeck as her rowdy uncle, the lusty, happily drunk Sir Toby Belch; Dan Kenney as the foppish Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Ross Lehman as a vaudevillian jester. Stealing the show is Larry Yando as Olivia's steward, Malvolio, the narcissistic puritan who covets the countess and becomes the play's most abused character. Chris Sullivan is a standout as the sea captain who falls for Sebastian."
"Twelfth Night is loaded with fun characters entertaining us with their amusing, if improbable, antics. Throughout the show the actors wade, swim, cavort, belly flop, and generally splash around, occasionally dousing the front row spectators. Veteran viewers of the play should enjoy the pool ingredient as an agreeably variation on the standard presentation of the show. First time spectators may wonder how the play can be performed without the pool.
The bottom line is that the CST has delivered its fun with intelligence, humor, and creativity. Even people intimidated by Shakespeare will find this production accessible and loaded with visual and verbal felicities."
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"With the help of a giddy cast, Rourke clears away the dark clouds that hang over Illyria, and though her version's sunny disposition sacrifices some depth (except in Larry Yando's riveting turn as priggish, much-abused Malvolio), it's a nice reminder that the play is, after all, a comedy."
"The ensemble acting and comic timing are first-rate.
British director Rouke has chosen to set and costume her production in Shakespeare’s own Elizabethan era, something so uncommon stateside these days that the rare sight of hoop skirts, swords, tights and pantaloons are almost a bit disconcerting at first. But no sooner has thunder crackled that the shipwrecked Viola (Michelle Beck) drops from the sky to become completely submerged in the large reflecting pool that takes up most of the stage, emerging from the water with her clothes wet. Up on dry land, music becomes the feast of love, a thought magnified by the presence of a set designed to form a large heart. By the time Sir Toby (Scott Jaeck) enters, he decides to strip down and bellyflop into the water for a complete bath, and like a walrus in a zoo, playfully splashes around."