William Shakespeare's lively rom-com Twelfe Night at the Belasco Theatre is a fun and joyous romp. Presented as it would have been staged during the Bard's time with an all-male cast, the actors get dressed onstage into their period-appropriate costumes pre-show while musicians play traditional Elizabethan instruments around them. The stage is lit with candles and some audience members are seated in booths on the wings of the stage.
The gist of the story: shipwrecked Viola (Samuel Barnett) disguises herself as a young man, Caesario, and serves Duke Osirus (Liam Brennan). Osirus sends Caesario to declare his love for the Countess Olivia (Mark Rylance), who is mourning the death of her father and brother and has sworn off love for seven years. Olivia however quickly changes her mind and falls madly in love with Caesario while Caesario/Viola in turn falls for Osirus. Other shenanigans ensue with the outstanding supporting cast, notably Olivia's rabble-rousing, busy-body lady in waiting, Maria (Paul Chahidi), and Olivia's stick-in-the-mud steward Malvolio (Stephen Fry).
Rylance's Olivia is superb gliding across the stage in gorgeous, black mourning gowns—initially somber and serious but quickly reduced to a hysterical, desperate, young woman in love. A frenetic, silly story, there is never a dull moment in this charming production. The exuberant, talented cast seems to be having a grand time during the performance, and it is contagious.
Twelfe Night is presented by Shakespeare's Globe in repertory with Richard III. Both close February 16th. Get tickets here.
The performers preparing pre-show: Mark Rylance (bottom left), Stephen Fry (center), Paul Chahidi (right).