A Standing Ovation for Twelfth Night
Written By Molly Tittemore
This fall, APH students braved the literary world of William Shakespeare and put on a production of his beloved, comedic play, Twelfth Night. The production started off on an intriguing note, complete with ominous, anxiety-riddled music. We first stumble upon twins Viola–played by Raya Young ‘23– and Sebastian–played by Chloe Todisco ‘25–, and their separation due to a life-threatening shipwreck. In the aftermath of it all, both believe each other to be dead. We watch comedic events unfold as Viola, disguised as a gentleman named Cesario, goes to work for Duke Orsino, played by Julia Valanzola ‘23. Complicating matters is Viola’s love for Orsino, and Orsino’s own infatuation with the melodramatic Countess Olivia, portrayed by Leia Shane ‘23. Soon, Orsino employs Cesario (a.k.a. Viola) to help him win Olivia’s affections.
Amidst all the complexity of love that is found in the play, I would be remiss not to praise the excellent comedic performances of drunkards Sir Toby Belch–played by Emma Hawthorne ‘24–and Sir Andrew Aguecheek, portrayed by Katie Hoskyns ‘23. The minute the two actors stepped upon the stage, I found myself doubling over in laughter. This was a rare experience for me as I am a chronically cynical person, but alas, my aloof exterior was broken. They continued to keep the entire audience
delighted throughout the entire performance. One notable side plot involving them has to do with Malvolio, Olivia’s wicked, sour steward–played by Cass Fallon ‘24, and Olivia’s gentlewoman, Maria, portrayed by Cece Turcotte ‘25. Sir Toby Belch and Sir Andrew Aguecheek have a historically poor relationship with Malvolio due to their perpetually drunken states and jagged temperaments. They decide to seek a sort of revenge on Malvolio with the help of Maria, who also hates Malvolio, by forging love letters from Olivia to him. In one scene, Toby, Andrew, and their companion Fabian–played by Sophia Siden ‘26–hide in a bush to watch the foolish Malvolio become lovesick upon his perusal of the letters.
This ultimately results in Malvolio waltzing onstage in garish, yellow stockings to impress Olivia, who tells him that she has no knowledge of these letters. Concerned by Malvolio’s apparent instability, he is sent to be imprisoned. Feste, Olivia’s jester—played by Sarah Braverman ‘24–delights in pretending to be a man named Sir Topas, who watches over Malvolio throughout his imprisonment. Armed with a ukulele and a powerful singing voice, Feste delights throughout the show as a whimsical jester. Eventually Malvolio is released, and storms out in anger, claiming that he is a terribly abused man.
Meanwhile, Viola is trying to balance her growing love for Duke Orsino, which culminates in a particularly awkward scene in which she tries to hold his hand. This gesture is apparently off-putting to the duke. Unfortunately, Duke Orsino has not had much luck with Olivia, who has fallen helplessly in love with Viola. At one point, she goes as far to grip onto Viola’s leg to get her to stay. Eventually, we find out that Sebastian is not dead, and that he is on a hunt for her sister. Followed by his loyal companion, Antonio–played by Alea Jalal ‘24–he finds his way to Illyria, where his sister is living. After a mix-up due to Sebastian’s identical appearance to his twin, Olivia proposes and marries him, believing him to be Cesario/Viola. In the end, however, Viola and Sebastian reunite, with Olivia and Orsino finding out their true identities. Orsino finds solace in a romance with Viola, and Olivia is comfortable in her marriage to Sebastian.
Speaking of Olivia’s marriage, I was a bit disappointed that William Shakespeare did not explore her attraction to Cesario/Viola more. In the end, she seems a bit embarrassed that she harbored feelings for her because she was actually a woman. I understand that this play was written by a patriarchal man, but I would have loved to see a greater celebration of her love. This play does address the theme of gender presentation and the nature of love being based upon character, which I believe is why a more outwardly sapphic depiction of Olivia would have only enriched the themes. Alas, this is a gripe I have with William Shakespeare, and William Shakespeare alone. I have to be grateful for his exploration, however limited, of different relationship dynamics, and the purity of love, no matter what it looks like. Overall, the APH cast and crew did a wonderful job pulling this play together under the guidance of their director, Ms. Emerson. Being a person with high expectations, I am glad that I enjoyed this play. It brought plenty of laughs and happiness to my normally mundane Friday night. I hope everyone involved in the production continues to spread the joy that they give me everywhere they go. It is clear that the APH theater department is a special place, where everyone flourishes concurrently. This is one ship that is certain not to crash.