Summer Hofford, Anna Civik, Shaina Schrooten, Elizabeth Rentfro, and Halie Merrill. Photo by Tom McGrath, TCMcG Photography.
By Tonika Todorova
Midsommer Flight’s returning fare for the holidays is perhaps the most delightful Shakespeare I’ve been privy to, made only more magical by the panoramic walk up through the Lincoln Park Zoo lights and the oversized winter decorations hanging above the oversized fauna under the Conservatory’s oversized glass domes. Talk about a shift in reality! Welcome to Illyria, boys and girls. It’s TWELFTH NIGHT. Or as known in Western Christian theology — the Day of Epiphany. Or by its alternative title given by the Bard himself — “What You Will.”
It’s quite easy to embrace this world, especially when as you enter the brightly lit space (no theatrical smoky mirrors here — make belief happens in front of your eyes with no blackouts or x-fades, no veils or set dressings to mask illusion), acoustic melodies and harmonies fill the air and your heart. The ensemble members effortlessly burst in song and switch off musical instruments as easy as they sword fight and bring the funny. LaKecia Harris gives us a Viola we can fall in love with, and Elizabeth Rentfro delivers us a joyfully witty Feste. Sam Cheeseman as Sir Andrew, Jeremy Thompson as Sir Toby and Robin Waisanen as Maria adorn their scenes with the high energy spirit of the Elizabethan Twelve Days of Christmas festival, while Amy Malcolm presents a most delicious comedic timing and execution in Malvolio. Kudos to Director Dylan S. Roberts for staging this delightful play.
A story where the lead young lady dresses up as a boy to win the love of a man by wooing another woman into loving him, and where the commoner wishing to be a nobleman allows prude to give way to scandal and for men that carry titles of Sir act like peasants, and where fools are smart and compassionate and the “…too hard a knot for me t’untie” is as easily untied as having a twin brother, believability isn’t the point. Thumbing our noses at order and propriety, however, is.
The meaning behind why Shakespeare decided to give this comedy two titles is still in question. But perhaps instead of we finding whatever wills us as important in this play or rendering it simply a flippant remark, TWELFTH NIGHT OR WHAT YOU WILL refers to our own inclination to experience self-awareness around this time of year and make of ourselves what we will. What with the Day of Epiphany coming up, perhaps we shall.
TWELFTH NIGHT plays through December 17 at Lincoln Park Conservatory. More info at midsommerflight.com.