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BWW Reviews: Superb Direction, Strong Ensemble Make TWELFTH NIGHT a Must-See, at Post5

Sometimes we make fools of ourselves, and sometimes we make fools of one another, but love makes fools of us all. And there's plenty of foolishness to go around in Post5 Theatre's production of Shakespeare's TWELFTH NIGHT. This production, exquisitely directed by Cassandra Boice, is fresh and funny, and full of compassion for the follies and foibles that make us all human, especially when we're in love.

TWELFTH NIGHT has a complex plot befitting the best of Shakespearean comedies. The play begins with a shipwreck in which identical twins Viola and Sebastian are separated. Viola finds herself in Illyria, which in this production is an island that seems to sit outside of time, and for safety she disguises herself as a boy and takes the name Cesario. Cesario soon becomes the favorite of Duke Orsino and is charged with helping him get Countess Olivia to fall in love with him, which Olivia has plainly announced she will have none of. Along the way, Viola falls in love with Orsino and Olivia falls in love with Viola-as-Cesario, creating a somewhat strange love triangle. There are also subplots, mostly involving Olivia's other suitors and her cousin (and first-class drunk) Sir Toby Belch. When Sebastian shows up alive, things get briefly more complicated before they all work out for (almost) everyone.

TWELFTH NIGHT has the potential to be little more than a wildly entertaining play, one from which you leave the theatre satisfied with having had a good laugh, but not necessarily moved. That is not true of this production. You will still split your sides laughing, but Boice's directorial choices, especially her casting of a man (Chip Sherman) in the role of Olivia and her treatment of Olivia's ill-fated steward and would-be suitor Malvolio, bring this production to a new level - one that will cause you to perhaps think differently about the nature of love and about people, and especially about people who deserve our compassion. In her "Letter from the Director," Boice wrote that her challenge was "to make this play - not fresh, not modern - but relevant." And by all counts, she has succeeded.

It is difficult to pick out the best performances from such a strong ensemble. Chip Sherman is fantastic as Olivia - in addition to bringing a new depth to the character, he is just plain funny. I can't find the right words to describe how perfect Ty Boice is as Malvolio. Let's just say that the scene in which he attempts to smile is worth the price of the ticket plus an extra $20 in the collection basket. I also loved Jeff Gorham as the hard-done-by, and constantly soused, Sir Toby.

It doesn't matter if you've never seen TWELFTH NIGHT before or it you've seen it 100 times, this production will surprise and delight you. Definitely a must-see.

TWELFTH NIGHT runs through May 16 at Post5 Theatre. For tickets, visit www.boxofficetickets.com.

Photo Credit: Russell J. Young



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