by Ron Finnigan
Twelfth Night, which is currently being presented at Carleton’s Kailesh Mital Theatre by Sock’N’Buskin on January 18th-20th and 25th- 27th, is a more traditional, albeit edited, staging of Shakespeare’s famous play. In the director’s notes included in the program, Tamara LaPlante comments that she’s “never laughed so much” in rehearsing the play. This is certainly exemplified in the playful exuberance exhibited by the players in fully embracing their characters.
The play is what is traditionally known as a comedy of errors. Twins Viola and Sebastian are shipwrecked, and each thinks the other is dead. Viola disguises herself as her brother taking the name Cesario and becomes the servant of Count Orsino, who is love with Olivia. After meeting Viola, disguised as Cesario, Olivia falls in love with her. The confusions over mistaken identities and the classic star-crossed lovers trope that devolves into chaos are what make Shakespearean comedies so interesting.
Molly McGuire brings an air of professionalism to her role as the fool, Feste. In addition to delivering satirical lines with a sharp wit and facial expressions that would test the best contortionist, McGuire has a beautiful voice that delivers the songs she sings with feeling and warmth. The fact that she also plays several different instruments to accompany herself is further testament to her impressive musical abilities.
Jasmine Stamos, as Viola, and Rachel Stanley, as Olivia, both perform their roles well; as do Christian Giansante and Matthew Venner in their respective roles as Duke Orsini and Sebastian. Giansante, as the Duke, plays a bumbling bureaucrat using Ceasario to pass love notes to Olivia, who in turn misinterprets them as notes from Caesario himself. Stamos and Stanley display a genuine chemistry in their interaction, even if Stamos appears more stand-offish. Venner as Sebastian made the intimate love scene with Viola (Jasmine Stamos) believable, and Viola’s subsequent infatuation, although sometimes misdirected at Sebastian’s twin, appears honest and intense. The amusing mix-ups between these characters and their ultimate pairings are what give the plot its romantic direction which, like all of Shakespeare’s comedies, eventually ends with satisfying resolutions.
Other honorable mentions go to Sir Toby, played by Lauren Steirs, and Sir Andrew, played by Sheldon Paul, who are effective foils to the pompous and antagonizing Malvolio, played by Nicholas Hepner. They embrace their roles of drunken comrades-in-arms with an enthusiasm and a charm that entices one to want to join the party. Meghan Meyer’s performance is also notable as Maria and she displays an appropriate understanding of the cunning and conniving traits of this malicious schemer.
The Sock’N’Buskin production does not have the elaborate sets, costumes and other staging that one might expect at Stratford or the NAC. Some of the is due to space and budget limitations, but Jared White and Christian Giansante are to be complimented for the simple stage design, set construction and lighting. The multiple scene changes and interlude music were brief and efficient in moving the story along, and the lighting helped locate the scene and establish mood.
Overall, Twelfth Night is an abridged, modern retelling of Shakespeare’s play well worth the price of admission. Tickets are $10 for students, $15 for general admission, and can be purchased at the door. The experience is a pleasant two hours (including intermission) of theatre that will satisfy and leave audiences chuckling.
Ron Finnigan retired in 2015 and decided to go back to university to pursue and Arts/English BA. He is currently enrolled as a third-year undergraduate at Carleton University with a focus on creative writing and theatre drama. His goal is to graduate in 2020 and then perhaps start all over again with something new.