This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: It was a dark and stormy night. Not in Forest Park -- puffy pink clouds and low 70s made this a perfect evening. But on the “Twelfth Night” stage.
A ship capsizes. Twins Viola and Sebastian lose each other, each believing the other dies. After violent waters pull Viola to the shores of Illyria, she pretends to be a man, takes the name “Cesario” and enters into the employ of Duke Orsino.
The object of Duke Orsino’s affection -- Lady Olivia -- falls in love with “Cesario” (or Viola). But “Cesario” is smitten with Duke Orsino. Storyline established, the Shakespearean tale scampers forth on the winds of gender confusion and unrequited love.
Need more reasons to hie thee to Shakespeare Glen before Shakespeare Festival St. Louis' “Twelfth Night” closes this Sunday? Here's a dozen that stood out on the 15th night of Shakespeare Festival’s 13th season.
1. The moon. The actual new moon was shy, but the set’s huge gray orb turns orange then glows purple in Act I, turns blue before intermission, and blooms to red then orange again in Act II.
2. The sounds. Noticing nature’s and technology’s accompaniments is kind of a game. I counted the chirping symphony of numerous birds, shrieks from a smattering of small children, the hum of two low-flying airplanes, the chop-chop of a helicopter moving toward Barnes’ emergency department, and the loud voice of a cell-phone answerer who believed that covering the device and her mouth with her hand would muffle the annoyance.
3. The food. Besides the snacks, small plates and $5 glasses of wine for sale, a cornucopia of carried-in food and beverages spilled from coolers, baskets and bags. From Straubs to Subway, brie to barbecue chips, bottles of bubbly to baby formula, the display was an study in American picnic fare.
4. The range of humor. From slapstick (the formerly sour Malvolio grinning and prancing about in black-and-yellow striped boxers) to wryly obtuse (“Many a good hanging prevents a bad marriage” from Feste, the jester), the comedy produced many a round of spontaneous laughter.
5. The people-watching. Young couples holding hands, babies on their backs mesmerized by blowing branches, a mom and three grown daughters in matching chairs, fire-brigading a bottle of Sauvignon blanc and a ziplock of homemade chocolate chip cookies.
6. The variety of setups. Some settled directly on the grass, many relaxed on blankets or in portable chairs, others cozied up to elaborate popup patio sets.
7. The music. Compositions by The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra
set the mood, with a particularly noteworthy piece opening Act II.
8. The gender bending. If a woman falls for a woman who’s dressed like a man, is there a word for that? Love?
9. The extras. The 20-minute Green Show gives you a preview of what’s to come. A deft juggler and a wise-cracking sword swallower help pass the time until then.
10. The famous lines, illuminated. Ever wonder where “... others have greatness thrust upon them” came from? In a letter to Malvolio, ostensibly from Lady Olivia.
11. The philosophical questions. “She sat like patience on a monument, Smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed?” - Viola.
12. The cost. How can you argue with free?