PCPA’s production of Twelfth Night is a saucy tale that effectively presents all the typical hilarity of a Shakespeare comedy. The play follows the story of twins Viola (Sarah Hollis) and Sebastian (Gerrad Alex Taylor), separated during a shipwreck. Viola washes up in Illyria and faces the grim realities of being a woman alone in a strange land. She decides to present as male and gains employ in the entourage of Duke Orsino (Timothy Paul Brown). Orsino sets his amorous sights on Illyrian noblewoman Olivia (Karin Hendricks), and sends Viola, who goes by Caesario while in drag, to woo the fair lady in his stead.
Casesario, who’s in love with Orsino, delivers tidings of the duke’s affection, but Olivia is interested in Caesario, setting up the play’s love triangle. Meanwhile, Olivia’s drunk uncle, Sir Toby (Erik Stein), along with his mistress, Maria (Polly Firestone Walker), and buffoonish buddy, Sir Andrew (George Walker), pranks Olivia’s stuffy steward, Malvolio (Andrew Philpot). The plot thickens when Sebastian arrives in Illyria and is mistaken for Caesario, first by the knights, then by Olivia.
Directed by Roger DeLaurier, Twelfth Night maintains a lively pace and the actors nimbly handle humorous notes without being excessively demonstrative. Stein and Walker are a strong comic presence, and Philpot’s Malvolio is so pinched and maniacally self-possessed that seeing his transformation from buttoned-up chaperone to Elizabethan Liberace is deeply satisfying. Twelfth Night is presented as an ethereal fairy tale, without a precisely defined time and place, yet the confluence of styles in the costumes and set supports the production’s qualities of legend and romance. Fast and physical, PCPA’s production successfully delivers a show with classic and modern comic elements.