Commonwealth’s Shakespeare On the Common ’12th Night’ A Hit

Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. Directed by Stephen Maler; Sound Design and Song Settings by Davis Remedios; Scenic Design by Christina Todesco; Costume Design by Nancy Leary; Lighting Design by Eric Southern. Presented by Commonwealth Shakespeare Company at the Boston Common Parkman Bandstand (Tremont St. & Winter St.) through August 10. ASL interpreted August 3rd & August 8th.

Imagine spending a rollicking evening on the island of Illyria with a moody Duke, a grieving Countess and a musically inclined Fool. Commonwealth Shakespeare Company has produced an engaging “Twelfth Night”  to entertain Boston audiences and lift our spirits. The play opens with a “shipwreck” on the dynamic multi-leveled stage amid billowing sails and a ballet of paddles and buoyant life jackets, choreographed by Yo-el Cassell. Twins Sebastian (Nile Hawver) and Viola (Marianna Bassham) are separated during the storm and each concludes that the other has drowned. Viola lands in Illyria and takes on the disguise of a boy called Cesario and is then employed by the love struck Duke Orsino (Robert Najarian) to help him in his pursuit of the Countess Olivia (Kerry O’Malley) who announced she will mourn for her late father and brother for “7 years”.

Countess Olivia’s household includes: her uncle, Sir Toby Belch (Robert Pemberton), a very sharp dresser, his friend Sir Andrew Aguecheek, a lively suitor in a Mohawk haircut with animated and agile gestures Conner Christiansen, her energetic maid Maria – styling with purple hair, (Sheree Galpert), Feste the fool, who entertains us with songs and impersonations (Remo Airaldi) and Malvolio, Olivia’s comical steward, (Fred Sullivan, Jr.) who ventures into the crowd to personally speak with audience members.

A subplot follows a letter forged by Maria, in the Countess’s handwriting, inviting Malvolio to wear “yellow stockings with cross-garters”, to pick fights with Toby and others, and to constantly smile even when Olivia’s in her dark mood. Through this prank Malvolio is mocked, misunderstood and “jailed,” to be visited by Feste who imitates a clergyman and conducts an exorcism.

Confusion continues to rein, with Cesario/Viola enamored with her Duke, combined with the Countess’ lovestruck view of Cesario/Viola. Ms. Bassham brings a combination of eagerness and innocence to her role as Viola.
Meanwhile, Sebastian has been saved by the sea captain Antonio (Woody Gaul), and the pair arrive in Illyria where Antonio is a wanted man after stealing from Duke Orsino. The ruse persists when Feste, Toby and Sir Andrew come upon Sebastian, and thinking he is Cesario /Viola, challenge him to a duel. Olivia hastily takes Sebastian, thinking he is Cesario/Viola, away to her chamber and soon they are wed.

Orsino and Olivia meet and Olivia insists that Cesario/Viola is her husband. Orsino feels betrayed by Cesario/ Viola and chaos ensues when Sir Toby and Sir Andrew return having been defeated by Sebastian. The twins are gleefully reunited; true identities are revealed and Orsino and Viola are paired. Our favorite fool, Feste, delivers the forged letter, Malvolio is released but seeks revenge.

Mr. Airaldi’s songs are a delight and the creative lighting design added a whimsical backdrop to the production. Perhaps Mr. Shakespeare would’ve renamed this production “All’s well that ends well”…except for Malvolio. Weather hotline: 781-239-5972. For more info, go to: