Merry spirits are being imbibed if Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek are any indication, to create a feeling of holiday joviality and frivolity. Such is the mood engendered by the current production being offered on a silver platter by Westport Country Playhouse until Saturday, November 5, of William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night, or What You Will.”
Double trouble, toil and muddle, there has been a storm at sea and twins Viola and Sebastian are shipwrecked on the land of Illyria, each believing the other has died. To protect herself, Viola (Mahira Kakkac) takes on the disguise of a male servant Cesario and is soon in the service of Duke Orsino (Lucas Hall).
The Duke instructs his new page to be his messenger: conveying words of love to the fair Olivia (Susan Kelechi Watson). Olivia, barely recovering from the deaths of her father and brother, wants nothing to do with suitors, who number the Duke and Sir Andrew.
In keeping with the festivities of the Twelfth Night holiday, when everything is turned upside down and inside out, Sir Toby (David Schramm) and Sir Andrew (Jordan Coughtry), both well inebriated, conspire with Olivia’s maid Maria (Donnetta Lavina Grays) to present a third suitor to the fray, Olivia’s dour servant Malvolio (David Adkins).
Finding a love letter he believes sent to him by his mistress, Malvolio alters his appearance, forsaking black for yellow cross-gartering and pasting on a huge smile like a jack-o-lantern. Olivia thinks him mad and commits him to prison to the co-conspirator’s delight.
The merriment continues when Olivia believes herself to be in love with Cesario, while Cesario finds herself well smitten by the Duke. Even Sir Toby succumbs to the wiles of the clever Maria. Meanwhile Olivia’s fool Feste (Darius De Haas) presides over the party with mirth and song.
By the time Sebastian (Rachid Sabitri) wanders on to the stage with his rescuer Antonio (Paul Anthony Stewart), the confusion has reached fever pitch and is ready for the Bard’s
smooth resolution. Mark Lamos direct this balance of mayhem and melancholy with an even hand, aided by Andrew Boyce’s seashore and chandelier set and Tilly Grimes’ whimsical costuming.
For tickets ($40-60), call Westport Country Playhouse, 25 Powers Court, off route 1, Westport (exit 42, off Merritt) at 203-227-4177 or 888-927-7529 or online at www.westportplayhouse.org. Performances are Tuesday-Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Wednesday at 2 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday at 3 p.m. (no performance on Wednesday, November 2).
Watch how a tragedy at sea, misplaced affections, seemingly lost love letters, vaudeville routines, mismatched duels, too much drink and a sense of frivolity can provide so much entertainment once the perplexity is dispelled, or maybe because of its presence.