Amy Beddows 5:26 p.m., June 18
In Merry Olde England, Twelfth Night was a last call for holiday cheer. After the 12 days of Christmas, the evening of January 5 was a one-night Mardi Gras: wine and sherry would flow; food got gobbled, and life went topsy-turvy. Come the morning, order would return.
Shakespeare's comedy (1602) extends the occasion for several days. Everyone in Illyria is stuck, almost statue-like, in fact. Duke Orsino swoons unrequited love for Olivia; she promises to grieve seven years for her deceased brother; Sir Toby Belch and the hearty party crowd are on a collision course with pickled livers.
Enter Viola and Sebatian, shipwrecked twins from Messaline (Illyria was on the Balkan Peninsula, across from Italy; Shakespeare invented Messaline). Disguised as Cesario, a young man, Viola almost literally resuscitates the country. At play's end, lovers are paired off (correctly, one must assume) and order restored, though the Puritanical control freak Malvolio dampens proceedings with a vow to avenge himself on everyone.
Though this weekend, the Old Globe/USD Graduate Theatre Program is offering a lively, well-spoken Twelfth Night. Director Richard Seer and costume designer Michelle Hunt Souza have reset the play in India during the Raj. Thus Feste (a terrific Jesse Jensen) is a dervish-like Hindu fakir. Duke Orsino (Christopher Salazar) is a consul and Olivia a veiled Brahmin, at least until she locks her eyes onto Cesario. And the twins (Jeremy Fisher's Sebastian and Allison Spratt Pearce's wonderfully perplexed Viola) dress in British beige.
Adam Daveline leads the revelers as Sir Toby, who slurps Bombay gin like water Sean-Michael Wilkinson, as Aguecheek, and Rachel Jenison, as scheming Maria, keep the comedy rolling (and toke hookahs in the big party scene).
Jonathan Spivey does a fine job as Malvolio, the much-abused abuser. The more serious he becomes, the funnier he is. I like what Marjorie Garber said of him: in effect, has Malviolio been "born great," he would have been a great tyrant.
George Ye's fight choreography merits special mention. He has not only staged realistic sword fights but, when horrified Cesario squares off against a trembling Sir Andrew, a hilarious one as well.
Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, Balboa Park, through November 13; Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:00 p.m., Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Matinee Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 p.m.