Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in
Twelfth Night

Also see Ann's review of Lovely Day

We'll have to wait until next year to see the completed cabaret space at Theatre Square, but a fine christening has been made already with The Globe Theatre Company's production of Twelfth Night. This "original practices" staging with an all-male cast, hand sewn costumes, silk wigs, period music and authentic seating configuration creates an atmosphere as close as one can get to a 17th century production. Lighting is simple "houselights up" and there is no amplification.

Those who arrive early can enjoy viewing the transformation the actors make to become the male and female characters of this classic Shakespeare play. The sumptuous costuming and illuminating makeup and wigs are not garish and overdone, but richly fashion this cast of diverse players.

Twelfth Night tells the story of Viola, who has survived a shipwreck but thinks her twin brother has not survived (he has). Viola disguises herself as a young man named Cesario and becomes a page for Duke Orsino. Orsino uses Viola to attempt to win the affections of Countess Olivia for him, but Olivia falls in love with Cesario, while Viola falls for Orsino. With the addition of Olivia's steward Malvolio, her maid Maria, her cousin Sir Toby, and her hapless suitor Sir Andrew, plus Viola's twin brother Sebastian, a multitude of mistaken identities and crossed affections ensue. All is sorted out, naturally, with great humor by play's end.

With a simple set of floor level light wood thrust stage and matching back unit with a pair of utilitarian doorways, the focus is on the actors. Student audience members are seated on the floor right up to the edge of the stage, and the actors are aware of the audience throughout.

The company of accomplished actors needs no accoutrements. Their well practiced performances are presented with infectious enthusiasm. As Viola, Michael Brown is demure and gentle. He carries himself as a woman, but not in a campy way. Similarly played are Maria (Peter Shorey) and Olivia (Mark Rylance), but they have the added opportunity of floor length dresses, which allow them to walk in such a way to make the women appear to be floating. Rylance, in particular, uses this to great effect, taking a longer, circuitous route to whatever point on the stage he is headed for. Rylance is absolutely delicious as Countess Olivia; flirty one moment and direct the next, Olivia knows who she wants (and who she doesn't) and is used to having her way.

Of the male characters, Duke Orsino (Liam Brennan) is smooth voiced, handsome, and confused by his attraction to his page. Malvolio (Timothy Walker) is pitiable and foolish, and Walker really gets the most of this character, with grand hand gestures and very amusing facial expressions. The team of Bill Stewart as Sir Toby and Albie Woodington as Sir Andrew border on uncouth as they strive for a fun-loving life - especially at the expense of Malvolio. Feste the ever present fool (Peter Hamilton Dyer) is helpful to all, and Dyer's beautiful voice presents several lovely period songs.

The show is fast paced and full of energy, and well supported by a wonderful troupe of musicians playing such now unheard of instruments as the rauschpfeife, curtal, hautboy, and theorbo (plus some that are better known).

Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in Twelfth Night is presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and continues through November 16. For more information, call 412-456-6666 or visit

Photo: John Tramper

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-- Ann Miner

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