Monday, August 14, 2023

Twelfth Night (burlesque)

Spoilers ahoy! 

I make no excuse for loving this particular play of Shakespeare's, easily my favorite of his comedies (and one I've seen dozens of times).  I also have zero problem with anyone deciding to "play" with the play, so long as what we get in the end works.

Toil and Trouble Burlesque's version of Twelfth Night does indeed work.  Sometimes I almost wept with laughter and a couple of times I nearly lost my breath.

Yes it is a burlesque.  Every single opportunity it seems for having somebody do a strip was seized upon (male and female).  More, since the venue is a bar they have a license that allows them to play/perform lots of popular music, which they do--weaving Kate Bush, Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, and Sira among many others, often with startling poignancy in such an overtly farcical show.

Same plot is essentially there--Viola (Kim Dalton) washes ashore in Illyria, believing wrongly her twin brother Sebastian (Alec Schiff) drowned, which he himself believes about her after he's rescued by a sexy pirate (Rehyan Rivera).  Somewhat rarely, these latter two are clearly portrayed as having a sexual fling going on.  Viola pretends to be a boy named Caesario who joins the service of Duke Orsino (Walt Gray IV) and gets the unenviable job of wooing the local Countess Olivia (Jessica Jones) on his behalf.  Olivia is mourning the loss of her brother (this is the first production ever I've seen that did something with this, how her story and Viola's have so much in common) (Reagan Osborne), but takes one look at Caesario and falls.  Hard.

Olivia's household includes her dour Steward Malvolio (Amir Levi), her maid Maria (Libby Letlow), her drunken kinsman Sir Toby Belch (Matt Pick), as well as his silly friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Daniel Krause)--this last portrayed with zero pathos which is one of my few criticisms of this gloriously fun production.

Rounding out the cast are the Fool Feste (Lily Anne Smith), one of the best Fools in all Shakespeare which is saying a lot.  Then there are a pair of maids in a series of fetchingly skimpy and sometimes kinky costumes (Angie Hobin, Kayla Emerson).

The plot is far more convoluted than I've hinted at here, but (as noted) explores quite a bit most productions don't.  For example, Viola begins to feel tempted by the Countess!  And Orsino is a tad confused in the end over who he finds more attractive--Viola or Sebastian!  More, I must applaud a production that makes zero attempt in even the slightest way to make the twins look like each other at all!  Not even their costumes have a single color in common!  And.  It.  Did.  Not.  Matter!

Honestly, this might well be my favorite production of Twelfth Night I've ever seen.  

Twelfth Night plays Saturdays in August at 7pm (the show itself starts at 8pm), i.e. Aug 19 and 26, 2023 at the Three Clubs Bar  1123 Vine St, Los Angeles, CA 90038, Los Angeles , CA.

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