The Column Online



By William Shakespeare

Dallas Theater Center

Directed by Kevin Moriarty
Set Designed by Anna Louizos
Costumes Designed by Mari Taylor
Sound Designed by Andrea Allmond
Lights Designed by Clifton Taylor
Fight Direction by Nicole Berastequi
Voice/Text Coaching by Anne Schilling

Viola --- Delphi Borich
Sebastian --- Christopher Llewyn Ramirez
Antonio --- Ace Anderson
Orsino --- David Matranga
Valentine --- KJ Gray
Curio --- Nicholas Rothouse
Fabian --- Nathan Burke
Olivia --- Tiffany Solano DeSena
Maria --- Tiana Kaye Blair
Toby Belch --- Liz Mikel
Andrew Aguecheek --- Blake Hackler
Malvolio --- Alex Orga

Reviewed Performance: 4/3/2019

Reviewed by Chris Jackson, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

“Foolery, sir, does walk about the orb like the sun, it shines everywhere.” Feste

“If music be the food of love, play on,” indeed! The Dallas Theater Center has filled William Shakespeare’s romantic comedy, Twelfth Night, with music from beginning to end, and it’s a pure delight. Doing away with the character of Feste, and using three musicians playing bass, percussion, and guitar, carries the show forward, driving the action, and underscoring the interplay between the many, and varied, characters. The three musicians are onstage when the audience comes in, riffing and goofing, interplaying with the customers, and setting the tone of relaxed celebration for the performance.

“We will draw the curtain and show you the picture.” Olivia

Visually, the production is stunning thanks mostly to the astounding scenic design of Tony nominated Broadway designer, Anna Louizos. Her design features a two-story villa on the beach of Shakespeare’s Illyria built with elaborate detail, and surrounded by palm trees and tropical foliage. Mari Taylor’s colorful and playful costume designs do more than their share to add to the visuals, all under the astute lighting of Clifton Taylor. The staging of director Kevin Moriarty constantly creates pictures that amplify and expand the text and relationships. The whole effect is a visual feast for the eyes that compliments the engaging musical offerings in a display of sensory stimulation to be relished.

“If this were played upon a stage now, I could condemn it as an improbable fiction.” Fabian

Twelfth Night, traditionally January sixth, refers to the twelfth night after Christmas, and the celebration marking the coming of the Epiphany, the visit of the Magi. This is also, of course, the origin of the King Cake to celebrate the three kings, the baby inside representing the baby Jesus. Tradition called for the finder of the “baby” to become king for a day, and the ruler of the household to become the servant. It was celebrated as a time of riotous misrule and good-hearted confusion when roles and expectations became reversed. Think Mardi Gras! Shakespeare used all these elements in Twelfth Night, the first recorded performance being February second, 1602, at Candlemas, the formal end of Christmastide in the year’s calendar. The play wasn’t published however, until 1623, when it appeared in the First Folio.

The play seems to have been popular from the very beginning, thanks to its witty dialogue, beautiful poetry, and outstanding characterizations. Having a boy actor playing a girl who is pretending to be a boy only added to the fun, and made the attractions between characters even more titillating, adding layers of comedy to the enjoyment.

In trying to get past the difficulty of Viola and Sebastian, as twins, having to resemble each other, sisters and brothers with a strong resemblance have sometimes taken the parts, and in 1865, Miss Kate Terry, a famous Viola, took the parts of both Viola AND Sebastian, and in 1955, Vivien Leigh played both roles. The play’s popularity never seems to have lessened, the four leading men’s roles remaining favorites with most of the recognized actors of each period, and of course, Viola being a role tackled by virtually all the great actresses.

Desire and Love appear to be major themes in Twelfth Night, with every character experiencing some evidence of these. Duke Orsino is in love with Olivia, and Viola, disguised as his pageboy, Cesario, falls in love with Orsino, while Olivia falls in love with Cesario. The love triangle is resolved when Olivia falls in love with Viola’s twin brother, Sebastian, and rather belatedly, Orsino decides that he really is in love with Viola. This doesn’t even take into account the love and desires of Malvolio, Sir Andrew, and Sebastian. All the themes of the traditional Twelfth Night celebration are woven throughout the text.

“Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon ‘em.” Malvolio

Leading the fine cast in performance, and audience reaction, are Alex Organ as Malvolio, and Blake Hackler as Sir Andrew Aguecheek. Both are more than adept at playing comedy, incorporating perfect timing and, especially in Mr. Hackler’s case, effortless physical shtick. Nothing is extraneous in the physicalization of their characters, each gesture and reaction carefully calculated for maximum effect. These actors also know how to speak Shakespeare’s language with clear diction and understanding, communicating meaning to the audience cleanly and precisely. Both received well deserved numerous moments of spontaneous applause from the opening night audience during their times on stage.

“Oh, had I but followed the arts!” Sir Andrew

Also outstanding are Delphi Borich as Viola, and Ace Anderson as Antonio. Ms Borich attacks the role of Viola with determination and gusto, and is quite believable as Cesario, the “boy” messenger to Orsino. Mr. Anderson conveys layers of character and emotion in the relatively small role of the sailor Antonio. Liz Mikel and Tiana Kaye Blair both continue giving strong and confident performances in their careers as Toby and Maria. Both characters are clearly motivated and specific.

Orsino, the Duke of Illyria, is played by David Matranga. Mr. Maranga certainly looks the part of the romantic hero, and is relaxed and commanding on stage. Tiffany Solano DeSena is the Countess Olivia, and also knows how to “take the stage” when called upon to do so. KJ Gray as Valentine, Nicholas Rothouse as Curio, and Nathan Burke as Fabian are the three talented musicians who are never offstage, sing and play with gusto, and do their bits of interacting and dialogue with complete confidence, and appear to be having a wonderful time.

“What country, friend, is this?” Viola

The show begins with an impressive tropical storm, complete with palm trees blowing in the wind, thanks to Scenic Designer Anna Louizos, Lighting Designer Clifton Taylor, and Sound Designer Andrea Allmond. Thunder crashes, lightning flashes, and wind roars in the Illyria created for us on the stage of the Potter Rose Performance Hall at the Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre. As stated earlier, the visual effects of this production are outstanding. In addition to the scenic design by Ms Louizos, Lighting Design by Mr. Taylor bathes the tropical scene with sunlight, moonlight, and every kind of mood lighting in between. Emphasis is subtle, and colors and intensity, along with the angles of the light, do much to enhance each moment of the story. Ms. Allmond’s sound design works with the team to create an ambience that enriches the experience. Music choices by Burke, Gray and Rothouse are appropriate and fun.

“Remember who commended thy yellow stockings, and wished to see thee ever cross-gartered.” Maria’s letter

Costumes by Mari Taylor are bright and colorful, with Hawaiian print shirts, strong pastels, and formal and beach attire that’s elegant and shoddy as needed. The costumes help tell us what we need to know about the characters who wear them, and add their own palette to the overall visual effect. I particularly like the macramé beard worn by Toby when pretending to be a minister, the yellow stockings, of course, and the choice of blue-greens for Viola and Sebastian that echo their time at sea. Wigs by Tom Watson work so well that they are undetectable, and I’m assuming he is also responsible for the hair styles, which are varied and just right for each character. Also, the big fight between Viola and Andrew Aguecheek is hysterically clever and funny and well done, thanks to Fight Director Nicole Berastequi.

“He does smile his face into more lines than is in the new map with the augmentation of the Indies.” Maria

Looking around at the audience on opening night, I saw so many smiles, expressions of joy, and people leaning forward in their seats, caught up in the action. Thanks to Kevin Moriarty’s apt direction, the staging is fluid and ever changing, utilizing all the areas of the large space, including the audience seating. The arc of the story is clear, the scenes build, ebb and flow, and moments are earned and taken. Sexual fluidity, cross-dressing, and gender-blind casting, all make a statement about our current time in social history without being blatant. The production is appealing, smart, clean and crisp, and the cutting of the script keeps the action moving.

I particularly liked the choice to end the production on a note of melancholy, involving the wronged Malvolio and Antonio, and the singing of Shakespeare’s poignant lyrics: “When that I was and a little tiny boy, With hey, ho, the wind and the rain, A foolish thing was but a toy, For the rain it raineth every day. …. A great while ago the world begun, With hey ho, the wind and the rain, But that’s all one, our play is done, And we’ll strive to please you ever day.” See this show, and I think you’ll find that, indeed, please you, it does.

Oh, and by the way, remember this sage bit of observation from Feste, the Clown: “Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage.” Enjoy!

Dallas Theater Center
Wyly Theatre
2400 Flora Street
Dallas, TX 75201

Final Performance on April 28th, 2019

Tickets $20 - $101, subject to change
Box Office Phone (214) 522-8499