Rustic, riotous and quirky to the brim, Phoenixville Area High School's production of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night provided hearty laughs and a fresh insight on the classic Shakespeare romp.
Set in the Mediterranean province of Illyria, Twelfth Night tells the tale of a brother and sister, Sebastian (Scott Carr) and Viola (Sonia Tavani), who are separated after shipwreck. Viola decides to escape the real world and dresses as a man named Cesario, becoming servant to the duke Orsino (Brendan Farrell). Orsino, in love with the countess Olivia (Rebecca Wise), sends Viola to woo Olivia for him - however, things go awry when Olivia falls in love with "Cesario," and Viola goes head over heels for Orsino, setting into motion an array of festive, raucous shocks and awes.
Taking inspiration from the Italian comedic style comedia del arte, Phoenixville put on a vaudeville-esque road show of a play, using ensemble members as the set, and often breaking character and text to further the fun and games.
As the hilarious ever-present court fool Feste, Mike Zolovich illustrated full understanding of the text, great depth of character, and first-rate humor and stagecraft. Following suit, Tavani's Viola was satisfyingly clever and thoroughly charming.
However, the heart of the laughter was Owen Howson's Sir Toby Belch, Olivia's uncle, plotting, fighting and flirting in a hysterically believable drunken swagger. Howson gave an organic and skilled performance, sharing stage time as well with his equally funny friend Sir Andrew (Dylan Unruh). Farrell's Orsino also provided a solid performance, and as Malvolio, Olivia's ill-tempered steward, Marcus Tavani brought sincerity to a typically arrogant character.
In a clever and creative concept, the show's ensemble worked as "servants" to the cast, acting as the props, sets (a creaking door was one player's outstretched arm), and running crew. The concept was executed with efficiency and taste, and though the lighting was simple, it played effectively into the play-within-a-play feel of the production.
Kelsey Hodgkiss, also a cast member, put a unique twist on creative end of the show by selecting, arranging, directing, and sometimes playing the various songs and verses in the play.
When the countess Olivia quips, "You are out of your text: but we will show you the picture," in the wonderfully chaotic Twelfth Night, the intent is metaphoric. However, Phoenixville Area High School's take on the play literally stepped out of the text and put on a daring, comical, and ultimately satisfying work of theater.