By William Shakespeare
Directed by Mary Poole
Costume Design by Stephanie Cluggish
Scenic Design by Sarah JHP Watkins
Lighting Design by Rebecca Jeffords
Photo Credits: Justin Barbin
The underlying humor of Twelfth Night lies in nature. Nature demands procreation, and comedy demands sex. We discovered that in this play, those characters who are most content are the ones who follow their true nature, and those who wallow in discontent are attempting to force nature into something it does not want. Feste, Maria, and Sir Toby may spend their lives in service to others, or to alcohol in Sir Toby’s case, but they know themselves and are happy in their lot. This wisdom does not extend to characters like Olivia, Orsino, and Malvolio, who all yearn for something out of their reach--for Orsino and Malvolio, it is Olivia, or really the idea of Olivia; for Olivia, her dead family. Once they finally relinquish control to their deepest urges they find redemption and joy and love almost immediately, with Viola and Sebastian. Malvolio is, of course, not so lucky.
Our production emphasized the role of nature in the play. We kept the setting outdoors in a winter garden, the seemingly dead vegetation matching the catatonic state of Olivia’s emotions. The clothes or the rustics evoked the soft colors of the earth, with the bright punctuation of color reminiscent of winter berries and moss. Olivia and Orsino sport harsher, icier metallics until they too relinquish their control and fall giddily in love. Malvolio’s severe black clothes constrict him, but even his expression of love is inappropriate; in addition to his yellow stockings he sports a large yellow codpiece, just to make his intentions clear.