Kings County Shakespeare Company Presents ‘Twelfth Night’

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Rachel Alt as Olivia
Rachel Alt as Olivia.

Brooklyn’s Kings County Shakespeare Company, which made its name mounting outdoor Shakespeare in Prospect Park for 17 years, is presenting “Twelfth Night,” directed by Artistic Director Deborah Wright Houston, through June 30th at BRIC Studio in Brooklyn.

“Twelfth Night,” one of the last and most bitter-sweet of Shakespeare’s comedies, is a play filled with deeply flawed, richly drawn and memorable characters, replete with mismatched lovers, love unrequited and love finally satisfied. The central plot hinges on the resemblance of Sebastian and his twin sister Viola, who are separated from each other in a shipwreck off the coast of Illyria. Believing her brother to be dead, Viola dresses as a boy and finds employment as Cesario, a page to Orsino, Duke of Illyria. The Duke is an ardent and unrelenting suitor to the Countess Olivia, but she will have nothing to do with him. She falls instead for his reluctant messenger of love, Cesario. When Viola’s brother arrives on the scene, the fun of mistaken identities begins in earnest.

Deborah Wright Houston is a director known for her visual approach to staging classics. She is always looking for the “picture” that supports the text, the story being told and the relationships of the characters. She sees the 18th century as the best period to illuminate the excesses in this play, so the costumes are evocative of (but not slavishly true to) that century. And since geography was “of very little concern to Shakespeare in his choice of settings for his plays,” Ms. Houston’s Illyria is an imaginary sea coastal principality. “Twelfth Night” is possibly the most song-filled comedy in the Shakespearean canon and this production features an abundance of original songs composed and arranged by Joe Crowe Ryan, Bruno Pena and Deborah Wright Houston.

Kimberly Wadsworth of nytheatre.com wrote, “Many production companies mounting productions of Shakespeare forget that they originally were very simple-no set, a few spare props, and trusting the actors and the words to tell the story. Kings County Shakespeare wisely takes this approach with ‘Twelfth Night,’ letting the machinations of the plot and the skill of the cast carry the show.”

“Twelfth Night” plays through June 30, 2006. The show is presented at BRIC Studio at 647 Fulton Street (next door to BAM’s Harvey Theatre), 2nd floor. Upcoming performances are: Sun 6/25 at 2pm & 7pm; 8:00 pm Mon 6/26, Tue 6/27, Wed 6/28, Th 6/29, close Fri 6/30. Tickets are $18 ($9 students and seniors). Online ticketing is available at www.smarttix.com. For further information visit www.kingscountyshakespeare.com.

Sasha Levites is a theatre writer with the Jonathan Slaff Organization in New York.