Short Shakespeare!

Twelfth Night


March 5

April 9, 2016

at Chicago Shakespeare Theater

adapted and directed by Kirsten Kelly

The Story

In the imaginary land of Illyria, Duke Orsino is pining for the love of a countess. But the Countess Olivia has declared seven years of mourning for her dead brother and will see no one, and matters of love in Illyria are currently at a stalemate.

A young woman named Viola washes up on Illyria’s shore, shipwrecked in a storm at sea. Alone in a strange land, fearing that her twin brother Sebastian is dead, she takes on a young page’s disguise, and as “Cesario” seeks employment in Duke Orsino’s household. Orsino, charmed by his new page, immediately takes “him” into his confidence, and sends Cesario as his ambassador of love to Olivia. Viola undertakes Orsino’s embassy, though she herself has fallen in love with the Duke. Cesario urges the Countess to drop her veil of mourning, and as she does Olivia falls in love with the stranger before her.

Olivia’s uncle Sir Toby Belch and his sidekick Sir Andrew Aguecheek—who also hopes to woo Olivia— drink late into the nights and the entire household is in an uproar. Olivia tries to maintain order through her steward Malvolio, hated by all as a self-righteous “puritan.” Olivia’s gentlewoman Maria plots their revenge upon Malvolio—a forged letter of love supposedly from the Countess. Toby, Aguecheek and Maria look on as Malvolio offers himself to his mistress as instructed in the letter— adorned in garters and yellow stockings. Dismayed by this strange behavior, Olivia entrusts her steward to the care of her uncle, who locks Malvolio up in a dark cell to cure him of “madness.”

Viola’s lost twin is, as it turns out, alive and well—and landing in Illyria, looking just like his sister in her male disguise. Mistaking the newcomer for Cesario, Olivia is overjoyed by his unexpected consent to her repeated proposal of marriage. Learning of Cesario’s impending wedding to the Countess, Viola is no less stunned. Finally, the appearance of the real Sebastian sets all aright in Illyria. Almost.

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