Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Twelfth Night is set in the kingdom of Illyria and follows the story of Viola, a young woman who is shipwrecked and believes her twin brother Sebastian has drowned. Disguising herself as a man named Cesario, Viola enters the service of Duke Orsino and quickly becomes his trusted messenger in his pursuit of the countess Olivia. But even as she pursues Olivia in the Duke's name, Viola falls in love with Orsino. To make matters worse, Olivia quickly falls for Viola disguised as Cesario. Things only get more tangled when Olivia's household staff get involved and Sebastian shows up very much alive.
Olivia (and, of course, Cesario) is played by the winsome Melissa Rakiro. Frequently nervous, easily excited, and always adorably earnest Rakiro's energy is fantastic. There is a fun, easy chemistry between Rakiro and Damon Bonetti as Duke Orsino. Their lopsided romance is more schoolyard crush than desperate unrequited love, which keeps the tone light and feels right in line with the rest of Shakespeare's comedy. Bonetti wisely chooses to play the Duke as childish but charming, eschewing a more dark and brooding affect. Other standouts in the all-around excellent ensemble include J Hernandez as the unintentionally hilarious Sir Andrew, David Ingram as the much maligned Malvolio, and Joanna Liao as a vibrant and capricious Viola.
Featuring a richly jeweled color palette and lots of fun detail, Marla Jurglanis costume designs are wonderful. James F. Pyne Jr.'a set design gives the actors plenty of spaces and levels to work, but having a ship's bow on stage for the duration does not make sense to me. I also found the set a bit too dark, but cannot say whether that is due to Pyne's design or the lighting designed by Tydell Williams.
McMahon's production features beautiful original music composed by Barrymore Award-winner Christopher Colucci. Colucci's score turns a potential lull (many productions struggle with the song lyrics in Shakespeare's work) into one of the play's highlights. It is a real treat to see the actors themselves play and sing the songs live on stage.
I highly recommend heading over the Lantern Theater and having a listen and a laugh for yourself.
The Lantern's production ofTwelfth Night runs through Sunday, June 18, 2023, at St. Stephen's Theater, 923 Ludlow Street, Philadelphia PA. For tickets and information, please visit www.lanterntheater.org or 215-829-0395.