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TWELFTH NIGHT Offers Songs of Love and Laughter at Theatricum Botanicum

TWELFTH NIGHT Offers Songs of Love and Laughter at Theatricum Botanicum

Mischief, madness and romance are in the air this summer when Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum presents William Shakespeare's rollicking comedy, Twelfth Night, in its magical, outdoor Topanga amphitheater. Twelfth Night opens Theatricum's summer repertory season on Saturday, June 1 at 8 p.m., where performances will continue through Sept. 28.

Shipwrecked on the coast of Illyria, and fearing that her brother Sebastian has drowned, Viola must disguise herself as a man. She falls in love with the neighboring Duke Orsino - who loves the Lady Olivia - who loves the disguised Viola. But false appearances are the norm on this Island of Misrule, where the fool is king, the court jester is a philosopher, and hijinks among the servants are wickedly delicious. Ellen Geer directs with her usual flair, while original music by composer Marshall McDaniel lends the familiar words and songs a refreshing new sound, lifting Shakespeare's elevated language to even greater heights.

Bringing the Bard's tale to riotous life is a cast that includes Theatricum favorites Willow Geer as Viola, Christine Breihan as Olivia, Christopher W. Jones as Sir Toby Belch, Max Lawrence as Duke Orsino, Melora Marshall as Malvolio, Sean McConaghy as Antonio, Cavin Mohrhardt as Sebastian, Elizabeth Tobias as Maria, Frank Weidner as Sir Andrew Aguecheek and Time Winters as Feste.

Twelfth Night was first seen in the Inns of Court shortly after Christmas (hence, the title). In Shakespeare's Renaissance, this holiday was celebrated as a festival, in which everything was made delightfully topsy-turvy - much like the world of the play's Illyria. Scholars believe that William Shakespeare wrote Twelfth Night in 1601, near the middle of his career. Considered one of his finest comedies, it rivals his others in character development and plot sophistication. A play about infatuation and the outrageous things it causes us to do, Twelfth Night makes use of illusion, deception, disguise and even madness, mixing in darker qualities often associated with more serious drama.

Costume design for Twelfth Night is by Amy Mazzaferro, lighting design is by Zach Moore and props are by Leah Haynor. Elna Kordijan is the production stage manager.

The afternoon following the opening of Twelfth Night (Sunday, June 2 at 4 p.m.) will see the opening of Theatricum's signature production of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dreamon the same stage. One week later, Moby Dick-Rehearsed - a "whale of a tale" adapted by the great Orson Welles from Herman Melville's novel - opens on June 8; on June 22, Ellen Geer's new, freely adapted version of Henrik Ibsen's powerful An Enemy of the People joins the season; and Thornton Wilder's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, The Skin of Our Teeth kicks off on July 13. All five productions will play in repertory through Sept. 29. A sixth production will open Aug. 17 on the smaller stage in the theater's intimate S. Mark Taper Pavilion: The GinGame by D.L. Coburn - another Pulitzer Prize winner - will star long-time Theatricum company members and real life husband-and-wife team Alan Blumenfeld and Katherine James in a co-production with the Sierra Madre Playhouse.

Unlike most theaters in the L.A. area that stage continuous runs of a single play, Theatricum, using a company of actors, will perform each of the plays in repertory, making it possible to see all six plays in a single summer weekend.

Twelfth Night opens on Saturday, June 1 at 8 p.m. and continues through Sept. 28. Tickets range from $10 - $42; children 4 and under are free. Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 North Topanga Canyon Blvd. in Topanga, midway between Malibu and the San Fernando Valley. For a complete schedule of performances and to purchase tickets, call 310-455-3723 or visit

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From This Author Sarah Hookey