Twelfth Night Makes Outdoor Shakes A Breeze

Quick, while temps have dipped slightly below heatstroke levels, make plans to catch Shakespeare Dallas' Twelfth Night at Samuell-Grand Amphitheater. You can take a picnic or sack of snacks with you. Flop onto your blanket or low lawn chair and soak up some culture as the sun sets over cottonwood trees.

Shakespeare Dallas has been doing its thing for 41 seasons now. This summer they have Twelfth Night and Coriolanus running in rotating repertory, Tuesdays through Sundays through July 21. They'll be back in the fall with Macbeth, or as the theater peeps call it, "The Scottish Play" or "Mackers." (It's bad luck to utter the name of that play inside a theater, even an outdoor one.)

Twelfth Night is one of William Shakespeare's most expertly plotted rom-coms. It has music in it, too. The sweet songs in each act have tunes composed for this production by Max Hartman and Newton Pittman. The lilting melodies complement lyrics that comment on the numerous plot threads in the play.

Brother and sister twins Sebastian and Viola (Austin Tindle and Jenny Ledel) are separated by a shipwreck. The rescued Viola arrives in the kingdom of Illyria and disguises herself as a boy, "Cesario," and goes to work for Duke Orsino (Hartman). Orsino has been wooing Countess Olivia (Allison Pistorius), but she's not interested. Viola, in boy-drag, is the go-between, delivering messages back and forth between the Duke and the Countess.

So Viola falls in love with her boss, Orsino. Olivia falls in love with "Cesario." And Sebastian is rescued and turns up in Illyria, where he's mistaken for his lookalike sis.

Throughout all this, fat old mischief-maker Sir Toby Belch (Steven Young) is cooking up a plan to send fake love letters that will screw up everybody's romantic intentions.

All's well by the end, of course, and it's all a midsummer night's romp.

Directed by Raphael Parry and moved into the early 1900s for style purposes (the costumes by Leila Heise make for some pretty visuals, even from the back of the park), the play isn't the hunk parade that Coriolanus is, but it's cast beautifully. Ledel, playing Viola/Cesario, is becoming one of Dallas theater's most versatile leading ladies. Hartman has the perfect voice and stature for a big outdoor spectacle like this. And despite some probs with the sound system (the actors' mics crackle like grackles), the language by almost every actor comes across with clarity. Young gets a bit hammy as Belch, but with that character, it's required.

Many of the Bard's best-known lines come from Twelfth Night, including the opener, spoken by Orsino on his entrance: "If music be the food of love, play on. ..."

And on and on and on. Twelfth Night continues at Samuell-Grand Amphitheater through July 21. Check for performance schedule. Park opens at 7:15 p.m., play starts at sundown, approximately 8:15 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesdays, admission is free. All other nights, $10.

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Elaine Liner
Contact: Elaine Liner