Writers's Twelfth Night doesn't quite achieve greatness, but it's still good fizzy fun | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

Writers's Twelfth Night doesn't quite achieve greatness, but it's still good fizzy fun 

A compelling cast breathes new life into Shakespeare's words.

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click to enlarge Twelfth Night

Twelfth Night

Michael Brosilow

Fortunately for Writers Theatre, the highly implausible claim on its website that Twelfth Night "has never felt more relevant" isn't the funniest thing about the production. However, what it lacks in relevance, it makes up for in actual humor, with a blend of broad slapstick and dry wit.

Scott Parkinson steals the entire show as the hilariously affected Sir Andrew Aguecheek, often commanding full belly laughs. He flounces and flops around the stage, playing the audience like a fiddle. However, Jennifer Latimore (Viola) and Andrea San Miguel (Olivia) are no slouches, providing the show with some gravitas and displaying impressive range as both comedic and dramatic actors. Their interplay is compelling, blowing the dust off of and new life into Shakespeare's words.

Mara Blumenfeld's costumes indulge in a raucous visual cacophony of a floral extravaganza. It is excessive and it works splendidly. The original music by Josh Schmidt is lovely and organically woven into the proceedings.

The first half of the play is extraordinary; a scene where Malvolio (a delightful Sean Fortunato) receives a letter supposedly from his beloved is exquisitely staged and wrung for every possible laugh. The second half feels considerably less thoughtfully staged and phoned-in by comparison. Master writer though the Bard may have been, no comedy ever written has fully justified a run time of 2 hours and 25 minutes, and the second half dutifully rambles on to the obligatory conclusion amidst more than a few yawns. Overall, though, the production is light, fizzy fun, showcasing an across-the-board cast of solid actors.   v

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